FSU Theatre Presents – James and the Giant Peach Jr.

A classic children’s novel was brought to life on Nov. 2, 2016 when Frostburg State University presented James and the Giant Peach Jr. The show was presented in the Pealer Recital Hall of FSU’s Performing Arts Center. Although James and the Giant Peach is adapted from a children’s book, this play was something for the whole family to come out and enjoy.

The book James and the Giant Peach was written by Roald Dahl, a British novelist, short story writer, poet, and screenwriter, in 1961. Since then, the book has had many re-illustrated versions. Dahl has been considered one of the world’s greatest storytellers of the 20th century, penning other favorites such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and George’s Marvelous Medicine. Although the story was written by Dahl, it was adapted for the stage by Timothy Allen McDonald, an award-winning playwright-adapter of over 65 musicals. The words and music in the play were created by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, a Tony/Emmy nominated songwriting team.

The story of James and the Giant Peach Jr follows the adventures of a clever young boy named James who lived with his parents in South England until the deaths of James’ parents. As a result, James is forced to live with his two cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Throughout the play, James is treated horribly by his aunts. To his pleasure, one day James stumbles upon a mysterious man who gives him magic green crocodile tongues. He is told if the tongues are drunk with water they will bring him happiness and great adventures. In the play, he mistakenly drops all of the tongues and all of the animals living in the tree come to eat them. The next day, the peach tree has a peach that’s nearly the size of a house. James’ aunts try to make a fortune off of the tree by selling tickets for people to see the strange sight. After an argument with Spiker and Sponge, James comes upon an opening in the peach tree and crawls through. While inside the tree he meets Miss Spider, Centipede, Earthworm, Old-Green-Grasshopper, and Ladybug. The next day, the peach manages to roll away, flattening everything in its way. The peach rolls off a cliff and lands in the Atlantic Ocean. From this point forward, James and his friends face a series of obstacles. They soon realize that they have crossed the entire Atlantic Ocean, and they find themselves in New York City. After they land in New York City, they live happily ever after, and James retells the story of his adventures as James and the Giant Peach.

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The characters in the play were challenged to keep the crowd, filled with mostly children, entertained. Judging by the crowd’s applause the play was a success. Another challenge the play faced was having props. Yost-Rushton, a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, researched the puppets needed for the play and came to find out they were 1,200 dollars each. That would exceed the budget for a regional children’s theatre production, especially since the puppets were only used for a short period of time in the beginning of the play. Yost-Rushton turned to her colleague in FSU’s Department of English and Foreign Languages, Dr. Gerry Snelson. Even though Dr.Snelson told her he was too busy to help, he still managed to find the time to help. He even had pneumonia but still continued to work on the puppets with the help of his wife, Jackie. The six puppets took approximately six weeks to complete. Thanks to Dr. Snelson, the show was able to go on with the use of the puppets, bringing the play to life.

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The next production at FSU is the Fall Dance Concert on Nov. 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. in the F. Perry Smith Studio Theatre.

For more information, contact the Department of Theatre and Dance at 301-687-7462.

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