Foxes: the Musical at Belconnen Theatre by Shannon Parnell and Rachel Pengilly
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Foxes: the Musical at Belconnen Theatre by Shannon Parnell and Rachel Pengilly

Foxes: the Musical. Music, lyrics and musical direction by Shannon Parnell. Book by Rachel Pengilly. Directed by Rachel Pengilly. Choreography by Hannah Pengilly. Ribix Productions. Belconnen Theatre. January 31 to February 3 at 7pm. $25 adults, $18 students/concessions, $15 children. trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=318230&ses=935763. Website: ribixproductions.com.au.

An original musical written by two Canberra teenagers is having its premiere at Belconnen Theatre from January 31.

Sierra (Katherine Berry, Cast 1), left, tries unsuccessfully to get Indi (Annie Scott, Cast 1) to leave in a scene from Foxes.

Sierra (Katherine Berry, Cast 1), left, tries unsuccessfully to get Indi (Annie Scott, Cast 1) to leave in a scene from Foxes.

Director and book writer Rachel Pengilly, 19, says she and composer/lyricist Shannon Parnell, 18, have been friends since grade 4. Pengilly has been writing since the age of three and Parnell has been writing songs since she was nine. They've been collaborating on Foxes: The Musical - their first - for the past year and a half, the report says.

Since it was created by two young women, it might seem apt that Foxes: the Musical focuses on two young women. The show is set in a fictional modern-day kingdom. The death of Queen Maria left her husband, King Charles so bereft he neglects his duties and his daughter, Princess Rosalind. Also grief-stricken, she feels he has no love left for her and runs away.

Foxes director Rachel Pengilly, centre, shares notes with actors Tanner Clark, left and Katherine Berry on the set.

Foxes director Rachel Pengilly, centre, shares notes with actors Tanner Clark, left and Katherine Berry on the set.

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Several years later, the now-unknown princess secretly returns to the kingdom, going by the name Indi.

Pengilly says, "She comes back trying to steal a family heirloom that belonged to her mother. She feels it will help her achieve closure - it took her that long to work up the courage."

Indi meets Sierra, the leader of the Foxes, a rebel gang of street kids who have been causing trouble for the king and his people for the past year. The Foxes are a surrogate family for Sierra - the only one she's ever known - and Indi still has ambivalent feelings about her father.

The difficult situation in the kingdom come to a head and Indi is caught up in the ensuing havoc.

Most of the cast of Foxes in 'Which Way', the last song of Act I. From left: Stephanie Stephens, Abby Maskell, Angela Parnell, Tessani Wells, Hazel Kinnear, Jason Sarossy, Sarah Stephens, Tanner Clark, Caleb Wells, Hannah Pengilly, Matilda Watts, Katherine Berry, Shelly Robb.

Most of the cast of Foxes in 'Which Way', the last song of Act I. From left: Stephanie Stephens, Abby Maskell, Angela Parnell, Tessani Wells, Hazel Kinnear, Jason Sarossy, Sarah Stephens, Tanner Clark, Caleb Wells, Hannah Pengilly, Matilda Watts, Katherine Berry, Shelly Robb.

"We as writers didn't want a perfect Disney ending - things are not perfectly resolved."

It's their first musical, created over multiple drafts and a long time and with a cast of 28 it's a long way from Pengilly's previous play, The Train Station. She wrote that fantasy in a two-week burst of inspiration at the end of Year 11 in 2015. As well as scripting, she directed, produced and acted in The Train Station in 2016 and Parnell wrote the incidental music. It was presented with a cast of eight by theatre company Ribix Productions, which Pengilly co-founded in 2015, in the hall of North Belconnen Baptist Church.

"We made our money back - its budget was $300," she says.

But she only did triple duty this time, writing, directing and producing.

"I'm not in [Foxes] - it's too big for me to be involved.".

When she put a notice for auditions on Facebook she thought she would simply be casting her friends but more than 30 people showed up to the first call and the final cast ranges in age from nine to mid-30s.

"Ninety per cent are under 20."

In the end, she says, "One-third are friends from school and other shows, one-third weren't friends but people I knew from school by face and one-third were people I had no idea about until they showed up. I'm so proud of my cast."

For Foxes, also presented in association with the church, the budget was $5000 - $1500 from a Youth InterACT grant, $1000 from a Stir crowd-funded grant, and the rest from chocolate sales and other self-funding.

"We've spent the past six months in rehearsals."

Both Pengilly and Parnell have been involved in school and amateur productions since childhood . Pengilly says in writing Foxes they looked to Broadway musicals for inspiration such as Newsies, Hamilton and Anastasia. The last had a major story element that was the same as one in Foxes but it was a coincidence: Pengilly hadn't seen the other show and did some rewriting to reduce that element's importance in her script.

Parnell is also one of the actresses playing Sierra, sharing the role with Catherine Berry (all the lead roles have been double cast, Pengilly says, to take advantage of the talent encountered and also in case of illness or injury).

Pengilly's younger sister Hannah, 17, is the choreographer and her youngest sister, Angela, 14, is one of the assistant stage managers. Her father, Geoff, who runs his own tech company, is in charge of sound and lighting and her mother, Rachel has been engaged in publicity.

"My brother, Timmy is seven. He's not involved but he's our biggest fan."