Irita Kutchmy is the writer of a musical based on C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Because of licensing rights, this musical has never been performed in the United States or Canada. That being said, you can hear the music. I asked Irita to tell you about how the musical came to be, and where you can find it. (If you want to license it, click here.) Here is her story.
Hello Narnia Fans,
The other week I found myself wondering if there was a Narnia Fans website and I typed it into Google and hey presto, there you were!
So I want to share my story with you…
My favourite book as a child was ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and I spent a lot of time in my parent’s wardrobe, begging it to let me into Narnia.
My mother and father were both musicians and I inherited their love of music, as at an early age I used to make up little pieces on the piano.
Life took me in the direction of training to be a concert pianist (I went to the Yehudi Menuhin School and The Royal College of Music) and all thoughts of writing music went on hold, though I still dabbled in it from time to time.
However, something happened in 1982 which inspired me to try my hand at composing again.
There was a railway strike in England and I was at my parent’s house and couldn’t get back to my home in Brighton. My mother was a piano teacher at Wimbledon High School and said to me “as you’re stuck here, why don’t you come and see the Junior School perform Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat?”
Little did I know how this would change my life…
The school production was charming and I really enjoyed it and afterwards I chatted to Myrna Stent, who had conducted the performance (my mother had played the piano for the show.)
I told Myrna how impressed I was with the children’s achievement and she said “the trouble is, there isn’t much around for children to perform” and I found myself saying, “I sometimes write things – would you be interested if I came up with something?” and her very words were “you write it and we’ll do it!”
On the way home in the car, the title song for my musical version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sprang into my head as if from nowhere and I have never experienced anything like it before or since…
The other songs flowed thick and fast within the space of a fortnight, very much inspired by the wonderful pictures by Pauline Baynes who was the illustrator for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Soon after I wrote the musical, I was lucky enough to meet her and she became a very dear friend.
I hadn’t written lyrics before but as I was writing the show ‘just for fun’ I thought – I’ll have a go myself!
Wimbledon High Junior School did the very first performance, conducted by Myrna Stent with my mother playing piano. We called the show ‘The Magic Land Beyond the Wardrobe Door’ as we had been in touch with the publishers of the book and were told that we couldn’t call it ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ due to copyright reasons.
Here is a picture of us after the first show, clutching the flowers and cuddly toy ‘Aslans’ we were given. I am on the left, Myrna Stent is in the middle and my mother (Cornelia Kuchmy who spells her surname the original way) is on the right.
My mother strongly believed in the show and felt that it had a future and she gave me the money to make a demonstration recording and it was put into the the hands of the publishers, Josef Weinberger. Imagine my amazement and delight when the managing director, Richard Toeman, accepted it for publication! I had to add 5 new songs and alter the script but I signed the contract in 1984 and the very first performance of the full length musical was given by Redroofs Theatre School, soon after it was published in 1985. Here is a photo of the flyer for it.
Now we come to the present day…
The show hasn’t made my fame or fortune but it has been consistently performed by schools and youth theatre groups throughout the UK and Australia which has meant a very great deal to me.
Unfortunately it can’t be performed in Canada or the USA as this restriction was in the contract I signed in 1984 and to this day, I’m not quite sure why and I keep meaning to find out!
However, I feel extremely lucky and privileged to be connected with such a famous book and it is without doubt the musical achievement I am most proud of.
With the wonders of modern technology, it is now possible to bring it to a wider audience and with that in mind I have done two things.
Firstly, I have released a CD (recorded in 1997) on iTunes (and Google Play) and if you click on the album you can preview all the songs. It’s very jazzy, so won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I wrote it straight from my heart, out of love for the book, so there may be people out there who will want to hear it, or let their children listen to if they are reading the story to them.
Secondly, there is a Facebook page for it where you can read all the details about the recording, should you be interested.
Here is a photo of the front cover of the CD and the lion is a beautiful animal my husband Milo and I saw at a wildlife park a few years ago. The lion had the deepest and most expressive eyes I have ever seen and I said to Milo “that is how I imagine Aslan would look.” So he took a photo for me.
You can’t really see the lion’s eyes with the colour and depth as I remember them that day but I never forgot my ‘Aslan’ moment so I wanted to keep that memory with me…
It is lovely to have the opportunity to share all these thoughts with other Narnia fans and I am very grateful to Paul Martin for arranging for me to tell my story here.
Thank you for reading this and very best wishes to all you fellow Narnia fans out there!