Writer Timothy Allen McDonald says in his notes, “You’re about to enter our
collective imaginations and I warn you it’s not always a pretty place.”
Well, I found it to be a very enjoyable place. It isn’t easy to condense a
123-page novel into a little over an hour, but McDonald did it, and he didn’t
leave out the humor.
The humor adds to the blend of all the elements that combine to make a
Broadway-worthy play. It is truly the idealist’s performance; the theater-goer
who wants perfection will find it here.
The story, based on the book by Roald Dahl, centers around a young boy named
James. He is kind and has a good sense of moral values. His parents were
devoured by a rhinoceros when it got loose and they were trying to protect him.
He is then forced to live with his greedy and self-centered aunts.
While living with them, James is visited by a magician who gives him a spell
that creates a peach of great proportions. The aunts want to make money off of
the peach, but James and his talking insect friends run away with it and the
chase is on.
The dance group Pilobolus added to the performance. Its gymnastics represented
the natural forces in the play such as clouds, trees and animals.
The musical also features many top-notch actors.
The two evil aunts Spiker and Sponge, played by Ruth Gottschall and Denny
Dillon, respectively, provide comic relief, as they look funny together (one is
short and stout, one is tall and thin), and sing well together.
The Centipede, played by Nick Gaswirth, is the pessimist who turns out to be all
right in the end.
The most exceptional performer in the whole show is Justin Lawrence Hall, the
12-year-old who played James. He sang and danced well beyond his years.
The accompanying band is very talented. Their work is an aspect of the
production that a lot of people take for granted, but these musicians really
help this performance to stick for me. They had to deal with a variety of tempos
and styles of music that weren’t easy and they handled it beautifully.
James and the Giant Peach closed on Sunday, November 21 at the Goodspeed’s Norma Terris
Theatre in Chester, Connecticut.
This is a five-star play, and you should go see it.
As McDonald wrote, this play is about bringing “you home to the family that