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'Narnia' Comes to The Stage

Singers Onstage presents fully staged musical for one night only.

Sarah Morell is used to leading a fast-paced life. As the daughter of a Foreign Service officer, the 13-year-old has already traveled extensively, lived overseas and attended nine different schools in the past eight years. So, despite the fact that she and her family had just barely settled in after relocating from London to McLean in July, it hardly came as a surprise when she immediately joined a rigorous two-week "Singers Onstage" voice, acting and dance workshop.

"I really like the intensity of it," said Sarah. "I like that we have to do it so fast — I work well under pressure."

On Aug. 12, Singers Onstage will present a fully staged, fully costumed production of "Narnia," a musical written by Jules Tasca, Ted Drachman and Thomas Tierney, and based on C.S. Lewis' book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Since the entire show is put together over the course of the two-week workshop, "working well under pressure" can come in handy.

SINGERS ONSTAGE was founded by Sondra Harnes, the founder and director of the McLean-based World Children's Choir, and by James Selway, a director, pianist, composer and the associate director of the World Children's Choir. Subsequently, many of the children who participate in Singers Onstage are also members of the World Children's Choir, which perhaps explains why they are capable of putting on a fully staged production in such a short window of time.

"In the World Children's Choir, they get to perform in some really interesting places," said McLean resident Diane Hinson, whose daughter is both a member of the choir and a participant in the upcoming Singers Onstage production. "What I like about it is that it really gets them focused on the world and outside of themselves."

The World Children's Choir accepts 40-55 children each school year. Anyone between the ages of 4 and 18 may audition, and enrollment is open to children from the entire Washington, D.C. metro area. In addition to five scheduled seasonal church performances, the choir is frequently invited to perform at public events held for various children's charities. Choir members have had the opportunity to perform for such prestigious dignitaries as the President of the United States and the head of the United Nations.

Any child may audition for Singers Onstage, and the cast of the upcoming "Narnia" production hails from all over the Washington metropolitan region, including Alexandria, Arlington, McLean and Chantilly to name a few.

HINSON'S daughter, Robin Hinson, has been a member of the World Children's Choir for six years. The 13-year-old Longfellow Middle School student plays the role of Tumnus in "Narnia," and said she has enjoyed the challenge of a character that is half goat, half man.

"I'm not completely human, so I get to have the adventure of that," said Robin.

Sarah Morell plays the role of the impetuous and misguided Edmund, a middle child who is led astray by the temptations of the evil White Witch of Narnia. It is a substantial part, but Morell has enjoyed the challenge.

"I have a lot lines — there are some pretty big paragraphs," said Morell. "He is a complex character."

McLean resident Erica West, 10, joined the World Children's Choir last year. After hearing about Singers Onstage, she decided to give the workshop a shot. "Narnia" will be her first time appearing in a musical. She said that the experience has taught her how to be patient.

"You have to work hard, and you have to be patient because other people have to get their turn," she said. "Sometimes you get a day where you're not acting, and you have to wait for a while before you get to rehearse your part."

She added that the two-week workshop has also gained her a number of new friendships.

"I only knew one person in the group when I started," said Erica, who is home-schooled. "Now I know everyone."

The camaraderie of Singers Onstage is certainly a big part of its appeal to its participants.

Laura Evans, a 13-year-old student at Longfellow, has been in the World Children's Choir for several years and has grown close to her fellow choir members. Since many of them participate in Singers Onstage, the bond only grows stronger.

"I love being able to hang out with my friends all day and practicing lines with them," said Laura.