BWW Review: JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH at Des Moines Playhouse: A Magical Journey Across The Ocean And Back For All Ages
Has being home for winter break given your kids the blues? Are they in need of an adventure? Or do you need an escape? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Kate Godman Children's Theatre's production of David Woods "James and the Giant Peach" is for you. This journey will take you to Central Park, to London, and back all within the confines of 1 hour and 15 minutes. This magical production will excite children of all ages, and I can't wait to tell you about it.
"James and the Giant Peach" is adapted by David Wood from the book by Roald Dahl. As the show starts, we find ourselves in time square waiting to hear about an adventure. When James comes on stage, he begins to share his story about his life in London. At a young age, his parents died in an accident with a rhinoceros, causing him to go live with his two wicked aunts. When left outside one day, James is visited by a mysterious man who gives him a bag of magical crocodile tongues. When he trips and losses the crocodile tongues, something magical happens. An old tree starts producing a peach. The peach continues to grow until it becomes giant. When he takes a bite of the peach, his world is suddenly changed as he is introduced to a human-sized earthworm, Centipede, ladybug, spider, and grasshopper. He joins them in the peach, and Centipede bites the peach loose, which takes James on an adventure to a new world.
Director and set designer Nicholas Amundson brought this magical world to life on stage. His direction and design brought this magical journey to life. He delivers surprise after surprise, that will not only keep kids entertained, but will amaze adults as well. I appreciated that if something happened in the show, he made sure that we saw it on stage. We got to see the peach grow, roll downhill, and fly in the air. His set took us from Central Park, to London, and even under the sea. What was fun for me is that the magic was starting before the show began. As I was admiring the set, I noticed within the cobble work that makes up Central Park there was a peach was right in the center.
The magic onstage continues through the other technical elements as well. Angela Lampe's beautiful costumes didn't try to hide the actors but embraced the characteristics each actor brought. The costumes are similar to the production done in the 2010-2011 season at the playhouse. Lampe has found fun ways to reinterpret the costumes, with some of the costumes being new for this production. The lighting designed by Virgil Kleinhesselink continues to add to the magic of the show. One of my favorite moments is how the set and the lighting come together to make the underwater scene come to life. I heard many people leaving the theatre, talking about how amazing the scene was. It is also essential to give credit to Meredith Toeben, who composed the music for the show. The moments each character sang, the music was a perfect fit for their voice.
The cast brought together by Amundson, are the magic that brings this show to life. Part of that comes from seven people making their Playhouse debuts many coming from the children in the ensemble. The cast features Kristina Linnane and Kerrie Lee as the delightfully wicked Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker respectfully. It's also fun to see what other characters the aunts show up as throughout the show.
The cast also features a talented group of actors playing James' friends in the show. Andrew Lee makes his Playhouse debut as the gloomy Earthworm. His portrayal was a great foil to the bright characters the other cast members bring to life. Samantha Beard, as the resourceful Miss Spider, Julie Howland as the kind Ladybird, and Michael Bundy II as the wise Centipede, does a fantastic job of taking James on his journey across the ocean.
One of the joys of seeing people in multiple shows, especially young artists, is seeing them in a role that fits them so well they come alive as an actor. We get to see this in Michael Bundy II's charismatic performance of Centipede. He has done a fantastic job with each role, but there was a special spark with this performance. He is an actor to keep an eye on as he continues to expand his acting resume.
Another joy is seeing what happens when kids make their debuts in a lead role. This is seen in Carson Klein's portrayal of James. His youthful energy is a perfect fit for this role. From his first entrance, he commanded the stage, and his adorable performance had everyone in the audience rooting for him to get away from his aunts and celebrating with him when he made it to New York.
This magical production of David Wood's "James and the Giant Peach," is the perfect adventure to start the new year. No matter what age you are, you will enjoy this production. Each element comes together in a beautiful way to make a magical night of theatre that audiences won't soon forget. To find out more about this production or to buy tickets, visit https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/james-and-the-giant-peach
Review written by DC Felton
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