Continuing the winter theme, The Crighton Players follow their immensely popular production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas with James Goldman's classic tale of a historical dysfunctional family,The Lion in Winter. Nominated for two Tony Awards, the original Broadway production debuted in 1966 and was followed with the 1968 motion picture starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, earning 7 Oscar nominations and giving Hepburn her 3rd Academy Award for Best Actress and Goldman his 1st for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Centered on the Plantagenet family, The Lion in Winter takes place at a Christmas court that never was, in Chinon, France in 1183 A.D. The events might be fictional, but the characters are larger than life and endlessly fascinating. Goldman goes so far as to state in the preface of his play, "The historical material on Henry's reign is considerable insofar as battles, plots, wars, treaties and alliances are concerned. This play - while simplifying the political maneuvering combining a meeting of the French and English Kings in 1183 with a Royal Court held at Windsor in the following year into a Christmas Court that never was - is accurately based on the available data. The facts we have, while clear enough to the outcome of relationships - such things as who kills who and when - say little if anything about the quality and content of those relationships. The people in this play, their character and passions, while consistent with the facts we have, are fictions."
The Lion in Winter storyline is legend, and it's full of twists and turns. Henry II, the first of the Plantagenet Kings, is an old man sick of war. He has built an empire and rules over more than half of Western Europe. He wants to know that his empire will remain unified upon his death and fears that his sons' greed will divide it, plunging it into civil war. The son he had hoped would succeed him has died over the summer and he has three left, Richard, Geoffrey, and John.
Henry's family is far from ordinary. His sons are simply mad for power, and he's done everything he can to satiate their lust for crown and land. He holds a Christmas court at Chinon to decide which of the three is capable of shouldering his legacy.
Henry also invites his wife, Eleanor to court. He has let her out of prison for Christmas to help celebrate with the family. For a decade, Eleanor's been imprisoned in Salisbury Tower at Windsor Castle because she and their eldest sons led a revolt against him. Though imprisoned, Eleanor still holds great political sway, and Henry needs her at court to find out what tricks she has up her sleeve.
Who will get the crown? Henry favors John, Eleanor champions Richard, and no one even bothers to consider, Goeffrey who changes allegiance as often as he breathes.
Add to that the young King of France, Philip, who by treaty has been promised that his sister Alais will marry Richard. But Alais is Henry's mistress and political pawn, and so has been promised as the wife of whichever son Henry names as heir to the throne. She was even raised by Eleanor who, at one time herself, was Phillip's father's former wife.
Henry and Eleanor's problems seem unrelentingly tragic. On the Owen Stage however, all these complicated dynamics combined with everyday concerns like aging, death, sibling rivalry, marital jealousy, legacy, inheritance and love are transformed into situations to which everyone can relate.
Seven talented actors have taken Goldman's colorful characters under the direction of Brandi D. Baldwin and created a night at that theatre that won't soon be forgotten. Henry II is played by Crighton Players Board President, Jeffrey L Baldwin, who was recently seen playing another famous King in The King & I. Marilyn Moore, who won Monties for her roles in To Kill A Mockingbird and You Can't Take It With You, portrays Eleanor of Aquitane. Kathleen Baker (Alais) and J. Christopher Blanchard (Richard) are new faces to the Crighton Players and the Owen Stage, both having performed in several Houston Family Arts Center productions including The 39 Steps and Crazy for You. The cast is rounded out with other familiar CP faces: Timothy Eggert (Geoffrey) was Murray in The Odd Couple, Caleb Glass (John) was Jem in To Kill A Mockingbird and Travis A. Braynt was last seen as a Bobby in Oliver!
The Lion in Winter runs tonight, January 25th through February 10th. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays, February 3rd and 10th at 2pm. Get your tickets now. To reserve your seat, call 936-539-4090 or purchase on-line at www.owentheatre.com.