The musical version of Roald Dahl’s classic story about a boy and a giant peach hits the stage at Community Players on Friday.
“James and the Giant Peach” begins its two-week run at Community Players theater this weekend and promises to make audiences laugh, cry and possibly even dance.
Dahl’s children’s books, which also includes “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” are known to incorporate some elements of darkness. Community Players managing artistic director, Jamie Ulmer—who also directs “James and the Giant Peach”—said that one common theme found throughout Dahl’s work is the heroic child character who stands up to tyrannical authority figures, is a reason the works have been so popular.
“One of the great things about Roald Dahl, and why I think his stories have continued on is because, yeah, they're dark and a bit twisted, but they do have that ultimate heartwarming sentiment at their core, with the good guy winning,” Ulmer said. “The good guy who is true to their heart and who is a genuinely good person ultimately prevails.”
Ulmer said he went with a kind of steampunk-meets-Tim-Burton feel for the show, with a color scheme full of grays and purples. He said Burton’s film “The Nightmare Before Christmas” kind of inspired the show’s visual language, as did the show’s artwork, created nearly a year ago by associate director Tyler Rinne.
With songs and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul—who were also responsible for the songs in “La La Land”, “The Greatest Showman” and current Broadway smash “Dear Evan Hansen”—the show premiered in 2010 and just recently became available for community theaters to perform.
“This soundtrack has been on random shuffle in my brain for the last three weeks,” Ulmer said. “Just little snippets of songs pop into my head and they just get stuck there.”
“James and the Giant Peach” isn’t fully a children's show, and it’s not a show just for adults, Ulmer said. Instead, it somehow manages to be both. It might be a little scary and dark at times, he said, but it’s a show that children can enjoy without being too young for adult audiences.
“It's Dahl, so there is a little bit of darkness, but you shouldn't be afraid of exposing children to something that's not bouncy-happy all the time,” Ulmer said. “Because the world isn't always bouncy-happy. If you don't have context to frame some unhappiness or some difficulties or some struggles in, how will you know how to deal with it when you eventually have to deal with it yourself?”
“James and the Giant Peach” runs this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee showing at 2 p.m. The same schedule will be repeated the following weekend. Tickets are $18 for adults or $12 for students and are available online or at the Community Players box office.
While they haven’t performed for a full audience yet, Ulmer said he got a sign that the show might hit the audience in all the right places. On Wednesday night, during the show’s tech rehearsal, the daughter of the lightboard manager was in the audience.
“She was watching the show for the first time last night and she was like, 'I cried and I was dancing,'” Ulmer said. “Right there, that's a great testament (to) the impact the show will have on audiences.”