Megan Jaquiery and her daughter Sienna are enjoying rehearsing their parts in our New Year production ‘ Fantastic Mr Fox’ “ I was told to come to the auditions and bring my two children, so I did,” Megan said. “ I didn’t intend auditioning but Sienna was a bit nervous so I got up on the stage with her. I got the part of Mrs Fox and Sienna is one of the Fox children. It’s nice doing this fun thing together,” Megan added. Megan’s son Ethan also won a part in Fantastic Mr Fox but decided his commitment to ‘ The Phantom of the Opera’ precluded involvement with another production. “ He’s got quite a good singing voice”, his mother told me. Sienna is also a talented young singer who made a really favourable impression on the audition panel. Sienna who also enjoys art and cooking loves animals. She found it hard to choose a favourite pet when I asked but she finally decided it was Caesar , her three legged cat. This is quite a departure from the norm for Megan whose last appearance onstage at Rep was in 1989 in ‘Oh What A Lovely War’. Since then she’s become a busy mother, a lawyer and farmer. “ It’s important to spend time together “, Megan said as she put her arm arm around her daughter,” so I decided to make time”. They both agreed that the rehearsals are fun...” and everyone’s really nice”, Sienna added.
Mark and Elizabeth - Mr Badger and Little Fox Cub
Mr Badger and Little Fox Cub “When I saw it in the paper I thought I’d love to go and see it ‘cos I really like Roald Dahl stories, then I thought I’d like to come and audition and be a part of it. I made Dad come with me to the auditions and he got a part too.,” nine year old Elizabeth Morton told me. Elizabeth plays the part of one of the Fox cubs. ‘Dad’, a.k.a. Mark Morton chuckled. “Yes, I brought Elizabeth along and got up on stage to support her. I didn’t think I’d get a part. I thought I might get a job shifting scenery or props, something like that but instead I got the part of Mr Badger. Mr Badger is the narrator so is onstage for most of the play. When he’s not onstage Mark works in real estate.He lives on a small farm but insists that he’s not a farmer. “ Mum and I are the farmers “, Elizabeth chimed in. When I asked what livestock they had Elizabeth listed a range of farm animals but her favourites are her chestnut Appaloosa pony named Sam who is twenty three years old and her new bigger pony, Star. Sam’s obviously very special. Mark showed me photos of him wearing all his winner’s ribbons. “He’s a winner “, he said. “It’s great spending this time together with Elizabeth. It’s quality time and we’re really enjoying it. It’s great fun- we laugh a lot.” Would they come back next year to tread the boards at Rep? “ Absolutely!” Mark laughed.
Kerry Girdwood and Cast Members
Director Kerry Girdwood and Fantastic Mr Fox cast members Ryder Edmonds, Elizabeth Morton, Emily Robertson and Elise McDouall. There’s been a change of cast for Fantastic Mr Fox as Murray Milne has had to withdraw from the lead as Mr Fox for health reasons. Luckily for Rep Theatre, Russell Penton has agreed to play the part. Unfortunately, Phil Portland has also had to withdraw as our director but Kerry Girdwood has agreed to step into his place to ensure this fun children’s production goes ahead. “The cast have put in so much work into rehearsing and learning lines it would be a real shame to abandon Mr Fox at this stage. Their energy and enthusiasm is heartwarming,” Kerry said. “I want it to have a lot of the elements of panto, you know, lots of audience participation, calling out ‘He’s behind you! Watch out!’ That kind of thing. There are a lot of delightful song and dance numbers too.” It sounds like it’s going to be huge fun for children over the holidays.
Elijah Anscombe, William Herd and Kieran Spence
Rep Theatre’s Rat Pack Forget about Frank Sinatra and his pals- Repertory Theatre has its own Rat Pack and I’m sure they’re much nicer than that Hollywood gang. William Herd, Kieran Spence and Elijah Anscombe are the three rats who’ll challenge our Fantastic Mr Fox when he confronts them with their cache in the cider cellar. They’re a formidable trio. Two of these young men will be familiar to Whanganui theatre goers as they’ve appeared in many productions in the past. Last year William played the part of Mr Darling in Rep’s pantomime, ‘Peter Pan’ but he’s also entertained as ‘Dullboot’ in ‘Badjelly the Witch ‘, and as Peter in ‘The Lion ,the Witch and the Wardrobe ‘. This busy lad has also been cast in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor ‘but both of these productions have been postponed due to the Covid 19 restrictions. Kieran Spence is the fourth generation of his family to be involved in local theatre. His great grandfather was a theatre pianist , his grandmother Shirley London entertained in musicals with her lovely singing and his mother Debbie also entertained as a comedienne and dancer. Kieran has inherited the family theatrical talent for acting ,singing and dancing. Like William, he’s also been cast in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ which is having a break at the moment. Elijah Anscombe has worked backstage at Rep in earlier productions.” Oh yes I was the crocodile in ‘Peter Pan ‘ last year “, he recalled. He’s been involved in productions at Whanganui High School where he and William are both students and agreed that he’s really enjoying playing the part of a rat. Chief Rat William and Second Rat Kieran joined Elijah Rat in agreeing that it’s jolly good fun being a Rat. Do come and see them on stage at Repertory Theatre 20-24 January 2022. You’ll enjoy yourself too!
Fierce Farmers: Sierra Tanner, Mitch Taylor, Hannah Smith
“Bobbi’s, Bunce, and Bean One fat, one short, one lean These horrible crooks So different in looks Are nonetheless equally mean” So chant the animals who become the farmers ‘ victims when they lay siege to the hillside in an attempt to starve out Mr Fox and his family. All of the animals are starving. Who are these mean fellows? Farmer Bobbis is played by Sierra Tanner, a newcomer to Repertory Theatre. She’s enjoying the new experience and has a lot of ideas about plays. Farmer Bunce is played by Mitch Taylor who’s had several roles in Rep Theatre productions. “ I was in ‘Shenanigan’s Wake ‘ last year. It was a cameo role which is always good fun”, he told me. Hannah Smith, tall and slim, plays the part of Farmer Bean. Hannah appeared in our 2020 production of ‘ ‘Peter Pan’, playing the part of Mrs Darling and this time last year she was one of our models in our Vintage Weekend Bridal Show. She’s been involved in lots of school musicals. “Last year my school ( Whanganui Girls’ College) won the Taranaki Regional final for Showquest”, she proudly told me. Come and see these fierce chaps and find out if Mr Fox manages to outfox them all. ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ will be onstage at Repertory Theatre from Thursday 20th January to Monday 24th January. See you there.
Midweek Review by Paul Brooks
The Repertory cast of Fantastic Mr Fox cast were loosely assembled on stage while director Kerry Girdwood and “music rescue” Patrick McKenna took them through a rendition of Cider inside her, a song that features in Act 2. Their enthusiasm and obvious “togetherness” bodes well for the production that begins performances tomorrow night. It was rehearsal time when Midweek took a camera to Repertory Theatre in Ridgway St to catch a glimpse of what Fantastic Mr Fox is all about. The story is by Roald Dahl and is about a family of foxes hoping to thwart three dim-witted farmers who are out to get them. Supported by a large cast of British woodland animals, the play is a treat for children and entertaining for adults. The story is narrated by Mr and Mrs Badger, who take time out from their acting duties to keep the audience informed, in true pantomime fashion. “We want pace, we want accuracy, we want enthusiasm, and we want some fun,” says Kerry, giving lastminute directions before a full runthrough. And so they began. We were introduced to Mr and Mrs Fox and their four cubs, and, soon after, the three farmers and their obvious intentions. Filled with music, song, rhyme, lots of noise and slapstick, Fantastic Mr Fox is pure panto, with audience participation and obvious bias expected. The foxes are the “goodies” and the farmers are the “baddies”. The farmers might disagree. Kerry is pleased with the way rehearsals are going. “I think of them as an Olympic team,” she says. “You know how they train, but they want to peak at precisely the right moment. I’m really pleased with them — the enthusiasm, the willingness . . . and I think that shows. They’ve come together, helping each other, they’re beginning to cover for each other, and they’re enjoying it, which is a critical thing, and I think that will come across to an audience.” What’s more, the director is enjoying it too. “There are now 40 people involved,” she says. “That’s backstage, sound, lighting, construction . . . there are a lot of people on stage.” Pantomime is not easy to stage. “I think because there are so many different elements involved,” says Kerry. “You’ve always got a big cast, you’ve always got major wardrobe ‘stuff’, that you don’t have for ‘straight’ theatre. With this particular piece, the demands for lighting and sound are heavy.” Kerry says the play was originally written as though there are trapdoors all over the stage floor, enabling the Fox family to drop out of sight below the stage. Repertory is not so blessed, but by using the floor in front of the stage, the foxes can move and the audience can stay with them the whole time. “Also, song and dance is a huge aspect of pantomime. We’ve simplified it, and Patrick [McKenna] has been a godsend. “I rang Pat at about 9 o’clock on Monday night, and said, ‘Pat, I need help’,” says Kerry. As well as big numbers, there is a sweet solo sung as a lullaby by Megan Jaquiery and her daughter, Sienna Castellanos. “They’ve got beautiful voices, the pair of them,” says Kerry. “It’s a quiet moment in what is actually a very busy stage. Then away we go again and it builds. There’s another moment like it in the second act, and I like that rise and fall in mood.” Fantastic Mr Fox opens tomorrow night at Repertory.
River City Press Review by Doug Davidson
I attended a dress rehearsal of Fantastic Mr Fox on Tuesday evening along with my 10 year old grandson. We both agreed that the play is “quite fantastic” and rec- ommend it to both adults and children. Hopefully, most children have been read Roald Dahl’s well-loved story and will be eager to see the play version. The perfor- mance takes only about an hour. There will be no time to get bored. The show starts with a bang with the animals and the three farmers ‘one fat, one short and one lean and all equally mean,’ dancing and singing on stage. At this point you have to admire the make-up crew for the fantastic (shouldn’t use that word too often but ...) job they have done on the actors. Looking at the programme and not rec- ognizing many names I asked Kerry about them. “Most of them are new to the stage including Russell Penton as Mr Fox,” she told me. Without exception all of them perform brilliantly. The Fox family is key and they deserve the highest praise. The Fox cubs spoke clearly, loudly and con- vincingly. Mrs Fox, Megan Jaquiery, is able to use her lovely voice in a solo, being joined later by her daughter, Sienna Castel- lanos. While the farmers are the ‘baddies’ their performance is just as good. All 3 are very GLHUHQW ,W ZDV WHPSWLQJ WR ERR WKHP DV WKH play is deliberately a bit of a pantomime. I hope the audience does get involved when the show opens. The key song is of course ‘The Fox went out on a chilly night’ and you are tempted to join in on the lines ‘the town-o, town-o, town-o’ as it is very catchy. (The words are on the back of the programme). Cathy Gibble has a great cameo role as Mabel, the housekeeper for the farmers. She is that coughing, spluttering, loud- mouthed woman who deservedly believes she has a rat climbing up her dress. Won- derful performance. The stage set with a very realistic tree and fox burrow, well painted backdrop and the use of actors coming down the aisle, all contribute to a very satisfying show. Fantastic Mr Fox plays in the evenings at 6pm from 20 January through to 23, in the mornings at 11 from 22 to 24 January. Bookings at the Opera House or you can buy at the theatre before the show. A vaccine pass is required.
A Big ‘Thank You’ This is a big ‘Thanks ‘ to all the lovely children who came along to Repertory Theatre to take part in our latest production,’Fantastic Mr Fox’ which closed on Monday last. We couldn’t have staged such a wonderful show without them. Addison Whiteman and Emily Robertson made very cute bunnies while Elizabeth Hurley and Finlay Barrett were pretty convincing weasels.Of course we can’t forget our young badger cub (Ryder Edmonds) or our little fox cubs: Campbell Wilkins, Sienna Castellanos, Elise McDouall and Elizabeth Morton. Putting on a show such as ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ takes a lot of hard work in terms of time and energy. There’s the commitment to attend rehearsals several times a week then the need to be at the theatre early to get into costume and have your face painted. It takes a lot of time. It also takes a lot of ‘Mum and Dad time’ too ferrying children back and forth so we should thank those supportive Mums and Dads who played taxi driver to their children. Hard work and time commitment aside , our young thespians enjoyed their time with us. Will they be coming back for more? “Yes!”