Wolf and Helen Mallon in
The Wolves in the Walls
(© Richard Campbell)
Wolf and Helen Mallon in
The Wolves in the Walls
(© Richard Campbell)
Odd, but entertaining, The National Theatre of Scotland's production of The Wolves in the Walls -- currently at the New Victory Theater -- is described as "a musical pandemonium." But while the tale is certainly tuneful, it's more playful than chaotic. Director Vicky Featherstone, designer Julian Crouch, and composer/sound designer Nick Powell have adapted the work from the children's graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. They've stayed faithful to Gaiman's quirky tone, and Crouch's set design incorporates elements from McKean's artwork while also adding his own creative touches.

The plot centers around young Lucy (Helen Mallon), who lives with her video game addict brother (Paul James Corrigan), jam-making mother (Anita Vettesse), and amateur tuba player father (George Drennan). They are so absorbed in their own obsessions that they have little time for Lucy, who occupies herself by drawing -- often on the walls. That may be why she's the first to hear the peculiar noises emanating from within, which she's sure is made by wolves. Her family is dismissive of the theory, although they keep repeating cryptically, "When the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over."

And out they do come, throwing the family into turmoil. Featherstone has staged a few farcical scenes that expand upon the interaction between humans and wolves. The two groups even engage in an amusing out-and-out battle for control of the house.

Powell has often simply taken Gaiman's existing words and set them to music. Other times, Gaiman has contributed some new lyrics that help to flesh out character and story. A particularly compelling segment has the family hiding from the wolves within the walls of the house, while singing a tender tune about rediscovering items they had lost or misplaced long before. The musical's score nicely reflects the action, going from whimsical to sinister, as appropriate. Despite a few haunting melodies, the songs don't really stand on their own, but they do serve the needs of the production.

Mallon's Lucy, while occasionally getting scared, radiates a calmness that helps to provide a stable center around which the bizarre circumstances of the show revolve. However, the thickness of her Scottish accent may make it difficult for some children (and adults) to catch every word she's saying. Corrigan has a buoyant energy as the brother, and shines in his rock-inflected solo about playing video games, and Vettesse and Drennan do what they can with underwritten parts.

Ewan Hunter, Neil McNulty, Sharon Smith, and Jessica Tomchak portray the wolves, utilizing large hand-held puppets, and occasionally donning more elaborate, full-body costumes. Even before the wolves come out of the walls, these four actors appear in more conventional clothing, shifting about furniture and set pieces, unseen by everyone except, sometimes, Lucy.

At a breezy 75 minutes, Wolves should hold the attention span of most children, and provide a pleasant diversion for the adults who accompany them.