Over the last decade, Roald Dahl’s children’s books have been adapted into many successful musicals – Dahl’s signature classics, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda”, have proven to be particularly popular amongst West End and Broadway audiences alike, with the latter production currently preparing to embark on a UK tour. After the commercial success of the animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the latest of Dahl’s stories to undergo the musical treatment. The musical follows the journey of several endangered forest animals led by a cunning Mr. Fox in their attempts to outwit “Boggis, Bunce and Bean”; the villainous farmers of the piece, with a penchant for animal hunting. The show has been on an extensive UK tour, and whilst I wouldn’t class it in the same stellar category as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda”, I would like emphasise the fun-factor of the piece which was perfectly suited to the target family audience, who could enjoy the production regardless of whether or not they had read the book.
The cast has been expanded from the original story to include more creatures from the forest, showing a diverse friendship group who eventually all club together to help each other survive. The group is led by Greg Barnett as Mr. Fox, who makes an energetic, if not slightly egotistical husband to Mrs. Fox, played by Lillie Flynn, who comes to the rescue when his tail is cut off.Their daughter Kit, played by Jade Croot, also makes a loveable character, having had particular resonance with the children of the audience, who could relate to the classic “wait until you’re older” parental repertoire. The cast was nothing short of brilliant, with every character having been fully developed with a distinct persona; the multi-roling of the smaller animal characters in the roles of Boggis, Bunce and Bean was also worthy of particular mention. The use of an onstage band was also a nice touch, with the singing in close harmony at the beginning of each act also adding to the atmosphere of the piece.
The set-design was comprised of three rotating tiers which were put to effective use during the scene transitions, also making the changes flow well. I wouldn’t say the set looked particularly underground, with Tom Scutt’s aesthetic vision proving almost too modern and a little abstract. This was also mirrored in the costume design which put all of the animals in sports gear.
Whilst this show is primarily aimed at families with young children, I wouldn’t say that it is in any way limited to that demographic. The musical also gestures a standard “engagement with political affairs” commentary, with the few references to UKIP rhetoric (‘Let’s take our valley back’) proving a hit amongst the adult members of the audience.
Given it is a family show however, the references about friendship being “stronger together” are slightly overdone, but the score is so catchy that I didn’t notice it too much! It ticks all the boxes for a feel-good show, and would serve as a great family-friendly night! Theatrically, it’s not the most complex and not in the same league as Dahl’s other theatrical pieces, but that doesn’t in any way mean it’s not a good piece of theatre. I would give it 4 stars and definitely recommend it to families with young children or those who fancy a funnight out!
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