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Playful Fox Productions’ invites residents to be their guests

Arts and EntertainmentPlayful Fox Productions’ invites residents to be their guests

Playful Fox Productions (PFP) has been hard at work as it prepares to bring the enchanted world of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” to life, at Brantford’s Sanderson Centre for Performing Arts this December.

The show is a combination of various elements from the classic Walt Disney film with an added bonus of new songs, and character development.

The show follows the story of a beautiful and intelligent young woman, Belle, who longs for adventure. Throughout the storybook tale, Belle meets an unkind prince who has been magically transformed into an unsightly beast and along the way, teaches him what it means to be kind and gentle.

For Playful Fox co-owners, Malakai Fox (the Beast) and his wife Marissa Wilson-Fox (Belle), the play is a special one to them for several reasons.  

The couple were first introduced during an audition call back in 2008 for an Ancaster production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Now, 15 years later, for Wilson-Fox, the reality of this show, fulfills two of her lifelong wishes. One to perform on the Sanderson Centre stage and two, to put on “Beauty and the Beast” near Christmas. 

“The two never had to coincide, but the fact that it worked out like this, it was literally a childhood dream come true for her,” said Fox. “Then, to have this cast who not only accepts our leadership, but accepts her as Belle, it’s so great to have that.”

On top of the special nature of the show, the two owners said they are incredibly grateful for their cast.

“This is a cast of 30-plus people, and they are all just very respectful, civil, polite and supportive,” said Fox. “They’ve all been working really hard on their harmonies and we’ve even collaborated with two of our performers to choreograph some of our biggest dance numbers.”

The cast of “Beauty and the Beast” practice a dance number during a rehearsal on Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

When it comes to how they got a spot at the coveted Sanderson Centre, it all comes down to the reputation the company has built throughout the years.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time. Years ago, when we had basically just started the company, we had a meeting with Glenn Brown, Theatre Manager of Sanderson, to see if we would eventually be able to put on a show there,” said Wilson-Fox. “We asked what we needed to do to get on that stage and he basically said, ‘keep doing shows, bring in the audience, produce and get a name for yourself.’”

About a year ago, Fox decided it was time to reach out again.

“We were doing a film shoot and I messaged Glenn and said ‘listen, this is what we’ve done since then, and we’ve won platinum awards for local theatres,’” said Fox. “Within a few days he told us to come in for a meeting, we gave him a few options, and it was actually him that picked ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”

While the production company often performs at the Paris Presbyterian Church and other various local theatres in Guelph and Fergus, the Sanderson Centre is a whole new ball game as it’s a unionized shop and the team won’t have access to the stage until the day before opening night.

“We have always tailor-made our shows around the limitations of every theatre we go to, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, I mean that we do what we can with lights and lighting effects, and we do what we can with the size of the stage,” said Fox. “What’s different about this show, is that the limitations are on us and not Sanderson. We’re the ones who are asking things like ‘can we do this? can we use everything here to its full potential?’ and we don’t actually know what their full potential is. So, we’re really looking forward to talking about our ideas, listening to them and hearing what they think, as well as to see what kind of magic they can make. It’s truly going to be a collaborative effort.”

The cast of “Beauty and the Beast” rehearse a dramatic scene between Gaston and LeFou on Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

The couple said that with over 75 per cent of the Brantford shows already sold out, they want to do the show justice for both the audience and the Sanderson Centre crew.

“This is a massive number coming in and people are expecting something special, so we are really trying to pull everything we can, to make that happen because we don’t want to disappoint anyone. We’re not Mirvish, we’re not Drayton, and we don’t have a $60,000 to $75,000 budget,” said Wilson-Fox. “We don’t get government grants or anything like that, we finance the show, and this is still a two-person run company that operates as a community theatre. We know it’s a successful show and we want to make sure that with everything we put on stage, people will walk away thinking it was worth the price. The biggest thing with our shows, especially these types of shows, is that we want to do the very best we can to really bring the magic to life.”

Fox said that while it’s important for them to stick to their roots, they want to intertwine the things they are known for, with the scale of the theatre.

“I truly believe we have a show that carries out the quality we need for a bigger venue, but it’s still going to be that balance of, despite the bigger stage, we still want to keep that level of intimacy we’re known for,” he said. “We still want the audience to feel like they are part of the show and the story, where they can be pulled in and they can be acknowledged at times by having characters run through the alleys. It’s all those things that Playful Fox has been known for in a positive way and on top of that, we’ve incorporated the vocals to match it.”

The two said they have only two things they are nervous about.

“One, we want to make sure we are as easy to work with, and as good to Sanderson as they’ve been to us. And two, we want to make sure that our cast and audience walk away as happy as can be,” said Fox. “We want them to walk away smiling like ‘this is a perfect holiday musical’ outside of an actual Christmas musical. This is the type of show where if we do it right and we all come together with an open and welcoming mind, everyone will walk away enchanted.”

“Beauty and the Beast” will run at the Sanderson Centre for Performing arts on December 15 at 7:00 p.m., December 16 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and December 17 at 2:00 p.m..

During the run, the company will be picking local community organizations that audience members can also donate towards.

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