There’s something about Roald Dahl’s stories that really appeal to the kid in all of us.
From golden tickets hidden inside of Wonka bars, to a young boy and a group of insects travelling across the countryside in a giant peach, to the scariest headmistress that every lived… Perhaps it’s because most of the adults in Dahl’s stories are quite nasty.
Nonetheless, the stories also translate well to children’s theatre, and this season, Armstrong’s Asparagus Community Theatre is bringing another Dahl treasure to the stage when it presents Fantastic Mr. Fox.
“Our artistic committee knew it wanted to do a family show with lots of kids of various ages,” said director Mandy Penner.
It was also time for Asparagus to return to its home at Centennial Theatre with a winter show as last year the company only did a tour of local elementary schools.
“This is a short show and is only an hour. We bumped the show time up to 7:30 p.m. so everyone can be home in their jammies by 9 p.m.,” said Penner.
Produced by Lara Sheridan, this isn’t the first time Asparagus has presented a Dahl story. A few years ago, it staged James and The Giant Peach.
Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on Dahl’s 1970 short story, is unlike the 2009 stop-motion animated film directed by Wes Anderson.
“This is more true to the story than the movie,” said Penner. “In the movie there was more character developments. The story has four foxes (children), whereas, the movie focuses on one. In the story, the badger and the rat have smaller roles compared to the movie.”
The play revolves around a tricky, clever fox named Mr. Fox who lives underground beside a tree with his wife and four children.
In order to feed his family, he makes nightly visits to farms owned by three wicked, cruel and dim-witted farmers named Boggis, who raises chicken, Bunce (ducks) and Bean (turkey and apples) and snatches the livestock available on each man’s farm.
Tired of being outsmarted by Mr. Fox, the evil farmers devise a plan to ambush him as he leaves his hole. Mr. Fox, along with his underground friends (badgers, weasels, moles and rabbits), find themselves trapped in Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar, where they discover Rat, an ugly sort of character.
Just as it appears they have met their demise, Mr. Fox comes up with a brilliant plan to outwit Rat and the farmers. His plan saves the animals and provides a wonderful feast for all.
Taking on the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Fox are Phelan Gotto and Madison Reynolds, who also played a couple in Asparagus’ spring presentation, Gold Dust, which Penner also directed.
“(Gotto) is perfect for the role because of his naturally red hair,” said Penner, adding, “Madison is dying her hair the same colour as Phelan’s, so they will be matching foxes.”
Playing the farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean are Andy Moorhouse, Brodie Muskett, and Nathan Domarchuk-White, respectively. Leading the warren of singing rabbits is Lora Bensmiller as Mrs. Rabbit, and cast as Rat is Shaleen Toney, who played a caterpillar in James and the Giant Peach.
“There’s also lots of lights and sound with the digging and travelling underground from the fox hole,” said Penner, adding Beverley Peacock is in charge of the lighting design. “Our sets (designed by Maryke Simmonds) move, which has been interesting doing the blocking for that. We have moles and badgers who move the sets along. It gives them something to do, and they are challenged to do it.”
Costume designer is Susan Gairns, who recently made the costumes for Big Apple Production’s Rocky Horror Show, which played in Armstrong.
“She went from fishnets and garters to rat tails and bunny ears,” laughed Penner. “We have lots of new people on board, including Bridgette Teichroeb. This is her first time stage managing. When you do community theatre, it’s always great to get people learning new things.”
Asparagus Community Theatre presents Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox at the Centennial Theatre on Pleasant Valley Road, adjacent to the IPE grounds. The show opens Thursday, Nov. 27 and continues to Nov. 29 and Dec. 4 to 6 at 7:30 p.m. Matinée performances are Saturday, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6. at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at The Guy Next Door in Armstrong. Call 250-546-0950 to reserve.