By Daniel Jackovino, Staff Writer
WESTFIELD — Children of a certain age appear to be such natural actors. Clear evidence of this can be witnessed in Westfield this Friday and Saturday where a Hedgehog and Feather Theatre Co. adaptation of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” based on the 1968 Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name, will be performed.
Chief among the talent in the show are five children.
They include Child 1, 2 and 3, played by Sarah Kudron, Cristian Vozza and Paige Busse, who offer the audience in this one-hour production a prologue. Their performances are brief but delivered with a wonderful self-assurance that it is at first a little disappointing that they have not more to say.
But there are two other children whose performances are also beautifully natural. These are the children who play the offspring of Mr. and Mrs. Fox and who fantasically portray very important roles within the greater story.
To feed his wife and two children, Mr. Fox cheerfully raids the coops and storehouses of three farmers every night. Frustrated by the pilfering, the farmers come up with a plan to rid themselves of Mr. Fox and his family. Their efforts put the entire countryside of animals in danger. But Mr. Fox creates his own plan to protect all the animals.
The children of Mr. Fox are Andrew Kapadia, playing Fox Junior, and Alyssa Franck, playing Little Fox. Observing the manner in which they perform, it is a wonder they know that they are in a play at all.
The highlight of their acting comes at the moment when all seems to be lost for the Fox family. With the farmers closing in, Mr. Fox despairs that he cannot protect his family. But his children spring up and, standing tall in the spotlight, reassure their father with such sincerity and sense of purpose, that these simple actions say everything about why fairy tales were created for children in the first place.
Mr. Fox is played by Ty Jacobs. His performance gets its energy from the quick mood changes of the animal — from the delight of planning a poultry heist, to the cunning of how it is to be done, to the despair of being trapped. There are moments when Mr. Jacobs, who also directed the play, is remarkable in capturing the shifting intensity of Mr. Fox.
Mrs. Fox, played by Jackie Weiner, also waivers wonderfully, here, between faith in her husband and despair for her children. Of all the adult characters, hers appears the most realized. The three farmers were nicely played by JP Munley, Larry Weiner and Fred Dennehy. The cast is large enough for other accolades to be mentioned but better to go to the show and see for yourself.
The remaining performances will be Friday, May 16, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 17, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The 2 p.m. performance is sensory friendly. The show is at Westminster Hall, in Westfield, at 140 Mountain Ave. General admission is $15. For children 5 and up.