As I write this review, the temperature outside is in the single digits. I can’t imagine a better time of year to come in from the cold to a sunny, fun piece of theatre like Pit and Balcony’s James and the Giant Peach.
Peach tells the classic story of James Henry Trotter, an orphaned boy who goes on an extraordinary adventure involving magic, an abnormally large fruit, and its menagerie of inhabitants. Based on the well-loved book by Roald Dahl, this iteration, by David Wood, has a snappy, fun-filled script that allows each member of the cast multiple moments to shine.
At about an hour’s runtime with an intermission about halfway through, this production is the perfect length for young kids, new theatregoers, or anyone else looking for a bite-sized bit of escapism in the midst of one very cold winter. My four-year-old, who accompanied me to the show Friday evening, was engaged and invested in the action onstage despite the show ending well past his normal bedtime; he especially enjoyed the sharks.
First-time director Hope Nagy has assembled an ensemble with a wide range of experience and age, a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved to learn and grow as actors. I felt the cast as a whole should be specifically commended for their overall great projection-- not an easy feat when primarily portraying characters with accents! As opening night jitters die down, I encourage them to allow themselves time to enunciate, as the few times when I had a little trouble understanding a line seemed to be related to the speed at which the line was delivered.
Costumes by Mary Boone and Tony Ray show great inventiveness and thought, especially pertaining to James’ insect friends. Sound and lighting design, by L’Oreal Hartwell and Jacob Kaufman respectively, compliment the action on stage well and include some fun use of color and recognizable music at key moments.
The same care and creativity is evident in the design of the set, envisioned by Nagy, Assistant Director Aiden Montgomery, and Ken Duby. One of the best parts of live theatre is listening to fellow audience members react to the show, and some of the biggest responses were in regards to the clever use of shadow puppetry on a hanging screen. The aforementioned peach also gets ingeniously used with interior lighting and two rotating mechanisms.
The house for opening night was a little on the lighter side, which is tough for a show with a fair amount of audience interaction. I would love to see this community support this production by giving it the big, energetic response it truly deserves.
James and the Giant Peach runs at Pit and Balcony Theatre January 26th and 27th, and February 1st-3rd, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 PM and Sunday shows at 3:00 PM. Tickets are available online, at the box office, or by phone at 989-754-6583.
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