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Beauty and the Beast enchants audience on opening night

Arts and EntertainmentBeauty and the Beast enchants audience on opening night

A full house of audience members gave the cast of Playful Fox Productions’ (PFP) “Beauty and the Beast” a standing ovation during its opening night performance at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday, December 15, 2023.

With various elements from the classic Walt Disney film, the show follows the story of a beautiful and intelligent young woman named Belle, who longs for adventure.

Throughout the storybook tale, Belle meets a prince who has been magically transformed into an unsightly beast and along the way, teaches him what it means to love and be loved in return.

Belle (Marissa Wilson-Fox) sings about books and adventure during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

The performance opened with the young prince, portrayed by Malakai Fox, being transformed into a large and frightful beast after turning away an enchantress in search of shelter.

Ten years into the future, the locals of a nearby provincial town, are gawking and gossiping about the young Belle (Marissa Wilson-Fox) as she makes her way to the town’s bookstore.

It isn’t long before the town’s local hunter and hero, Gaston (Sean Hauk), becomes enthralled with Belle’s beauty and “odd” behaviour, determined to make her his wife.

Chaos soon ensues after Belle’s inventor father, Maurice (Brian Wilson), gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon a frightening castle. It’s there that he is jailed in the Beast’s dungeon for trespassing.

Belle’s father Maurice (Brian Wilson) stumbles on a pack of wolves during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

Worried about her father, Belle sets out to save him and selfishly offers herself as the prisoner’s replacement.

Her time at the castle is filled with moments of frustration, curiosity, playful dance numbers and ultimately, love.

With instantly enchanting characters like Lumiere (Jeff Gordon), Cogsworth (Scott Mountain), Madame de Le Grande Bouche (Jennifer Mountain), Chip (Oliver Gordon), and the flirty Babette (Jen Gregory-Gordon), each cast member embodied their characters with dedication and charm.

Other characters such as Maurice and Mrs. Potts (Kathryn Monk) personified much-needed guidance and support for the young Belle, while even the arrogant Gaston and witty LeFou (Rob Curwain) won over the audience with their well-timed delivery and over the top remarks.

Les Filles de la Ville swoon over Gaston (Sean Hauk) as he walks by during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

Real-life couple Fox and Wilson-Fox, used their off-stage connection to bring the relationship between Belle and the Beast to life, as they navigated the ups and downs of falling in love. From beginning to end, the two used their vocal talents to convey their characters development and personal struggles throughout the plot.

While PFP is known for tailor-making its shows to fit various small theatre spaces in Paris, Guelph and Fergus, it was the company’s first time on a unionized stage of this scale.

From the well-fitting set design to the clever use of lighting and costumes, as well as the smart use of the overall space, the production elements were well thought of and thorough.

Lumiere (Jeff Gordon) illuminates the room for Belle (Marissa Wilson-Fox) as she gets a better look of the Beast (Malakai Fox) during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

As the play wrapped and cast members came out for its curtain call, a majority of the audience rose to their feet for a standing ovation.

During intermission, Angela Guillemett, a Brantford resident, took the time to share her thoughts of the show.

“Overall, I’m loving the experience and feeling incredibly enchanted,” she chuckled. “I’m really enjoying the set, the costumes and the dance numbers. I’ve seen a couple renditions of the show out of town and I’m just loving that this feels down to earth and it’s not over-done, so far it’s that perfect balance of the two.”

Madame de Le Grande Bouche (Jennifer Mountain) shares some advice with Belle (Marissa Wilson-Fox) during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

After the show, Wilson-Fox took the time to reflect on opening night.

“It was like a dream come true and we could not have pulled off this incredible transformation without the amazing team we have here at the Sanderson Centre, they are truly magic makers,” she said. “I’m just so proud of this cast and crew and how everything came together tonight. I think for me, it really hit when Malakai and I were on the steps reading King Arthur together and we shared this look, and it was very much a moment of ‘we’re really here, don’t you dare cry yet.’ Getting to take that moment in and looking all around us, it was so special.”

LeFou (Rob Curwain) tries to make Gaston (Sean Hauk) feel better about Belle’s rejection during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

Her husband also had similar sentiments.

“This is a very special stage and I don’t think I was fully ready for that. I’ve been on countless stages across North America, but when I first turned around and saw the audience, I really felt the gravity of this space,” said Fox. “I’ve never felt that before and there is just something so special about this stage and I don’t think I even fully understand it. As a performer, I loved being on this stage and as a Director, I loved seeing so many smiles from our cast and crew. For some of them, it’s their first show ever and it’s here on this stage, so to be able to create memories and fulfill this kind of dream for so many of these performers, it’s just very special.”

An ensemble line welcomes Belle to be their guest during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

When it came to the audience, Fox said the crowd had a “quiet energy” that helped the cast stay level-headed.

“There were times they allowed themselves to laugh, and there were times when they applauded but you can tell they had what I call, a ‘quiet energy,’” he said. “Personally, I prefer a crowd like this for opening night because if it’s thunderous, it’s hard to come down from that, and this was a very generous and gentle crowd so it allowed us to do what we needed to do. They weren’t so quiet that we were self-conscious, but they weren’t so loud that we got cocky, and I think that really helped keep us grounded. It was just a great crowd that waited until the end to let loose, and it kept us focused as we ironed everything out.”

The Beast (Malakai Fox) doubts if he can ever truly be loved during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

He later credited their success to all of those who they have created with in the past.

“This moment and this show would not have happened without every single person who has worked with us throughout the years and all of them, good or bad, are responsible for us getting to this point and we are so grateful,” said Fox.

Cogsworth (Scott Mountain), the Beast (Malakai Fox) and Lumiere (Jeff Gordon) wonder how they can win Belle over during the opening night performance of Playful Fox Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, December 15, 2023.

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