JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, now playing at the San Diego State University’s Don Powell Theatre is a delightfully entertaining, and creative show with wonderful sets, puppets, and a cast. It’s only playing through May 3rd so go see it before it’s gone!
Based on the Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name this show , the show retains the slightly darker, British wit that is a hallmark of Dahl’s works while showcasing the immensely talented cast and crew that put this show together.
Foe anyone who doesn’t know the story James (an excellent Emma Chassey) is a young boy who has lost his parents (eaten by rhinos while at the zoo), and all he has left in their memory are his Father’s glasses and his Mother’s scarf. (His book “Matilda” also features a lost woman with a scarf, Dahl was very into accessorizing).
Alone at the orphanage where he lives he laments how allow he is to a Grasshopper (Devon Hunt) and a Ladybug (Eden Hildebrand) who have made their way into his room. Sad by his prospects of living in this orphanage, dealing with the very mean nurse (a very funny Ross Graham), and with no friends or family James asks them if he can go with them.
Soon afterward James is claimed by two long lost aunts, the wicked Spiker (Lauren Haughton) and Sponge (Trist Fishman). Both are deliriously self-centered, mean, and plan on using James as unpaid labor for all the work to do around the house. Haughton and Fishman are so delightfully over the top in their villainy I was a little sad they would get their comeuppance in the end.
While working in the yard a mysterious stranger named Ladahlord (Shayne Mims who unbeknownst to James has also been acting as our narrator as well) and offers his the chance to use a magic spell from his book. James accepts and makes the potion, only to spill it on the peach tree his aunts had told him to cut down.
The next morning a giant peach has grown, the aunts are trying to find ways to make money off of it, and James decides to explore the peach. Inside he finds his insect visitors from the orphanage, along with Spider (Emmy Farese), a timid Earthworm (a nervous Richard Morrison), and an untrusting Centipede (Marcus Rutledge). All have found themselves impacted by the spell and wondering what to do next. Centipede takes matters into his own hands (he can he has lots!) and cuts the stem to the peach and they roll down through the town, over a cliff, and end up in the ocean. As they float they have to figure out where they are going, how to survive until they get there, what to do when they hit land, but more importantly will they be able to escape the sharks attacking the peach to get the asners to those other questions?
All of the insect performances are well done, with all of them handling puppet versions of themselves, and then slowly gaining in size until they fully inhabited them. This transition and performance is not always easily balanced between puppet and performer) and the group did it admirably.
The puppets are all beautiful and creative, and were created by Brooke Kesler, Faith James, Taylor S Payne, Teri Tavares, Ryan Almario, Aria Huerto and Emily Gavin.
The costumes by by MFA student designer Brooke Kesler, with advice from professional designer Denitsa Bliznakova are equally imaginative, colorful, and fitting of each character.
Scenic design by Victoria Vitola is inventive and when the peach appeared the audience burst into applause. It’s like a kid’s clubhouse inside a peach and honestly, that’s exactly right for this story.
Projections by Scott Boyton and lighting by Sarah Schwartz, both MFA student designers are well done and compliment the set and the story. Excellent sound design by Nolan Voge enhances the story.
Director Stephen Brotebeck and Musical Director Robert Meffe head up a truly talented group of performers, musicans, and technical artists for a thoroughly fun and fanciful night at the theatre.
Buy the ticket, don’t miss this peach!
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is playing through May 3rd– to get your ticket go to https://ttf.sdsu/index.php/season_calendar/james-and-the-giant-peach
Photo Credit: SDSU