The Lawton Ballet Theatre recently held their production of James and the Giant Peach. I’d never read the book or seen the movie or a stage production of the show. I wasn’t even sure what the show was about, other than it had something to do with a giant peach. If my oldest hadn’t auditioned for it, I probably never would have seen it. I ended up really enjoying it.
In case you haven’t seen it or read the book, here is a short synopsis.
James and the Giant Peach is a musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Timothy Allen McDonald based on Roald Dahl’s 1961 children’s book of the same name.
The musical is about an orphan named James (played by Kayla Lybbert) who is sent to live with two mean and abusive aunts. Aunt Sponge (played by Jylian Scholl) and Aunt Spiker (played by Naima Ellis). James is supposed to chop down a dead peach tree when he’s visited by Ladahlord, played by Jessica Diley in this production. Ladahlord shows him a book of potions that supposedly will give him a better life. However, before he can drink the potion, he drops it near the peach tree where the insects end up taking it from him. The potion causes a giant peach to grow and inside the peach, the insects grow human-sized.
James finds a door to the center of the peach where he meets Centipede (William Guill), Spider (Ella Croft), Grasshopper (Chandler Moncrief), Earthworm (Alex Rodriguez), and Ladybug (Abby Masters). The six form an unlikely family as the peach carries them away from the terrible life they had with Spiker and Sponge.
The peach broke off the tree and rolled through town, creating havoc along the way, before it finally rolls over the Cliffs of Dover and into the ocean. While all of this is happening, Ladahlord (Jessica) is narrating the events. I’ve seen Jessica perform in several shows now and she never disappoints. This girl is a natural born performer. In this show, she perfected an English accent and if that wasn’t hard enough, she also had to sing with the accent, which she did beautifully.
While Ladahlord was explaining all the havoc from the peach rolling through town, she said it hit the world’s most famous chocolate factory and a photo of Willy Wonka’s factory came up on the large screens next to the stage. I thought that was brilliant and judging from the audience reactions, they did too.
James (Kayla Lybbert) did a fantastic English accent and played the role of James well. I’ve never seen her in a show before but I enjoyed her performance. She sings well and her acting skills are amazing. I would definitely attend another show where she plays a lead role.
William had to do a cockney accent for the centipede role and since he prefers to rehearse alone, I hadn’t heard it before the show. It wasn’t the best Cockney accent, but to me, that made the lines even funnier. The Centipede didn’t accept James at first because his kind “pull off our legs and burn us with magnifying glasses.” I think his funniest line was when he talked about his family dying in the “Raid of ‘59.”
You know, because Raid is a brand of bug spray.
Anyway, the Grasshopper was played by Chandler Moncrief and having seen him in a number of musicals, this role did not disappoint. He’s a fabulous vocalist and played this role just as well as his others.
I think my favorite role was the Earthworm though. Alex Rodriguez was born to play comedic roles. He is hilarious and his timing is perfect. He’s also really great at interacting with the audience on the fly.
At one point, the peach is attacked by sharks and James comes up with a plan to use Earthworm as seagull bait so they lift the peach out of the water and save it from the sharks. Alex performs the musical number “Plump and Juicy,” which was my favorite part of the show. It was hilarious. Earthworm was definitely the perfect role for Alex. I’ve seen him in several shows, and like William, he keeps getting better with each role.
In the end, the insects and James live happily ever after.
I would say the moral of the story is that family isn’t necessarily blood, but who is there for you in the hard times. Family is what you make of it.