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Rubicon Theatre Company's JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH JR. Begins Tonight

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Students from Rubicon Theatre Company are currently in rehearsals for what is sure to be a "master-peach" of a production - a delightfully offbeat musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved book James and the Giant Peach JR. Featuring music and lyrics by Tony nominated songwriters Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, and book by Timothy Allen, James and the Giant Peach JR. is directed and choreographed by Carolanne Marano, with Musical Direction by Miriam Arichea.

The production opens tonight, July 7 and runs for 6 performances only through July 10. For tickets, call (805) 667-2900 or go to www.rubicontheatre.org.

James and the Giant Peach JR. is the fantastical tale of a boy, his insect friends, and their amazing journey across the ocean on a giant piece of fruit. In the story, a young orphaned child finds a loving family in a most peculiar way. Sent by his mean, conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, James discovers a magic potion which creates a huge peach. From the center of the gigantic fruit, James and his unlikely band of friends take an epic journey. Together they discover that while we are all born into a family, we also make a family of our own.

According to Co-Creator Paul, "Behind its wit and whimsy, James and the Giant Peach, JR. explores some sophisticated themes. How do we define family? How do we start over after a big loss?"

"James is a child who is put in a remarkable situation," adds Pasek, "and with the help and support of some new friends he is able to achieve great things. Similarly, these Rubicon students are working together in extraordinary ways to present this musical. We know their show is going to be great!"

James and the Giant Peach, JR. features a joyous musical score, puppets, and a cast of 24 elementary and high school students ranging in age from 8 to 15. The cast includes: Gael Fernandez, Lillian Lippold, Peter Lippold and Andilyn Ziegler from Camarillo; Ava Burge and Kaya Hoffmann from Oak View; Catherine Kim, Isabelle Kim, Maya Mouderres and Rhett Speer from Ojai; Griffin Sanford from Santa Barbara; Mason Rothermel from Santa Paula; Abigail Block, Troy Braun, Meghan Carter, Gregory Gillett, Lizzy Gonzalez, Lauren Hansen, Alex Jannone, Juliet Johnson, Carly Leandro, Jayla Vi Ramirez, Chloe Scofield and Taylor Vaughan from Ventura; and Ian Holmes from Madrid, Spain.

The design and production team for James and the Giant Peach JR. includes David King (Set Designer), Nick McCord (Lighting Designer), Jessie Vacchiano (Production Manager), and acting coaches Jonathan Drahos and MacariA Martinez.

The production is perfect for families and recommends for children ages 2 to 15. The show runs approximately 80 minutes, plus one 10-minute intermission.

Rubicon Theatre Company's Youth Program presentation of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach JR. runs July 7, 8, 9 and 10 at 7:00 p.m. and July 9 and 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the company's home at 1006 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001. Advance tickets sales are $15 for kids ages 2 to 12 and $20 for those 13 or older. (Tickets are $5 more at the door.) To purchase by phone, call the Rubicon Box Office 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 7 days a week at (805) 667-2900. To purchase tickets online, go to www.rubicontheatre.org.

TWO SPECIAL ANNIVERSARIES:

Rubicon Theatre Company's production of James and the Giant Peach JR. begins a summer-long celebration of 15 years of Rubicon Theatre Company's Youth Programs under the direction of Education and Outreach Director BrIan McDonald.

McDonald joined Rubicon after an impressive career as an actor. After graduating with a B.F.A. from Boston Conservatory, he appeared on the stages of Denver Center, Theatre Virginia, The Lyric Stage, La Mirada Performing Arts Center, Ensemble Theatre Company, The Pasadena Playhouse, Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center, The Ahmanson and in the National Tours of Miss Saigon and Forever Plaid. He received the L.A. Weekly Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Gaveston in the Circle X production of Edward II.

Since joining Rubicon, in addition to his education work, McDonald has directed mainstage productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (L.A. Times Critic's Pick); Other Desert Cities (5 Stage Scene LA Awards including Outstanding Direction and Production); A Tuna Christmas (in which he also appeared); The Sunset Limited; Bus Stop (five Ovation nominations including Best Play); Master Harold...and the boys (three Ovation nominations including Best Play, Indy Award and Stage Scene LA Award for Direction); and the World Premiere musical Hello! My Baby, written and conceived by Cheri Steinkellner. He also conceived and directed A Rubicon Family Christmas Concert. Additional directing credits include Tennessee Williams' Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Hooters, Our Town, Little Women, Bye Bye Birdie, HONK!, Babes in Arms, Once on This Island, Schoolhouse Rock, LIVE!, Seussical the Musical, Footloose, Urinetown, Godspell, The Drowsy Chaperone and West Side Story.

While at Rubicon, McDonald was honored to receive the Mayors Arts Award for Emerging Artist.

Says McDonald, "I am very excited to share this production with our community during the 15th anniversary of our program, both professionally and personally."

"I was a dyslexic student," continues McDonald, "who hated to read until my third grade teacher Mrs. Spencer introduced me to the power of Dahl's storytelling and his imaginative use of language and allusion. His stories instilled in me a great love of reading, and I have never looked back."

This year also marks the "Roald Dahl 100," a series of worldwide events surrounding the centenary of Dahl's birth. Says McDonald, "In the spirit of the celebration, we are offering some squiffling surprises and treats for those who come to see James and the Giant Peach JR. The first 100 kids to come to the theatre for the performance will receive a free "Gloriumptious Roald Dahl Party Pack."

Dahl was born in Wales to Norwegian parents on September 13, 1916. He was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter and fighter pilot. Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults and was named by The Times as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. He ranks amongst the world's best-selling fiction authors with sales estimated at over 200 million, and his books have been published in almost 60 languages.

Dahl's short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children's books for their unsentimental, even darkly comic, content. Dahl's works for children include "James and the Giant Peach," "Danny Champion of the World," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Matilda," "The Witches," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The BFG," "The Twits," and "George's Marvelous Medicine." His adult works include "Tales of the Unexpected."

A major part of Dahl's literary influences stemmed from his own childhood. In his younger days, he was an avid reader, especially awed by fantastic tales of heroism and triumph. Amongst his favorite authors were Rudyard Kipling, William Makepeace Thackeray, Frederick Marryat and Charles Dickens, and their works went on to make a lasting mark on his life and writing. Dahl was also a huge fan of ghost stories.

Dahl wrote screenplays. Two, the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," were adaptations of novels by Ian Fleming. Dahl began adapting his own novel, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which was later completed and rewritten by David Seltzer and produced as "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

Roald Dahl died in November of 1990, at the age of 74, and was buried in the cemetery at St Peter and St Paul's Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England. Children continue to leave toys and flowers by his grave. In November, 1996, the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery was opened at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in nearby Aylesbury.

ABOUT THE DIRECTORS:

CAROLANNE MARANO (Director/Choreographer) has been a professional dancer/actor for the past 30 years. She returns to Rubicon having recently worked as Choreographer for My Fair Lady and Choreographer/Director for West Side Story. She most recently served as the Director/Choreographer for Once on this Island at the University of North Carolina. Her work as a Choreographer includes A Night in Paris a Go-Go with Belinda Carlisle/Rufus Wainwright New Year's Eve show for the LA Philharmonic; Three Musketeers and Avenue Q at Cape Fear Regional Theatre; Urinetown, The Drowsy Chaperone, Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Romeo and Juliet at Rubicon Theatre; Venus and Adonis at George Cadbury Hall, UK; The Music Man at Downey Civic Light Opera; and the film "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X." Carolanne has taught Musical Theatre at The University of Southern Oregon; University of Worcester, UK; and Pineapple Dance Studio in London, England. A member of Actors Equity, she has performed as Nellie Forbush in Downey Civic Light Opera's South Pacific and at the Hollywood Bowl with Reba McIntire in South Pacific, among others.

MIRIAM ARICHEA (Musical Director) is known locally for her performances as a concert pianist and soloist with the Ventura College Symphony and the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra. She was recently honored with the 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Arts Educator. Miriam has collaborated with vocalists and instrumentalists in a variety of venues, including the Ventura Music Festival, the Ventura Master Chorale series, and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Festival of Talent. It was through her work at the Festival that Miriam began working with BrIan McDonald and started to become involved with Rubicon Theatre productions. Miriam also directs the youth music program at the First Methodist Church, and has worked with the VUSD choirs as well as the Camarillo Youth Theatre. A lawyer by training, Miriam received her undergraduate and law degrees at Duke University. She presently handles criminal appeals as a court-appointed attorney with the California Appellate Project.

MORE ABOUT THE CAST:

ABIGAIL BLOCK (Ensemble) is a sixth-grader at Balboa Middle School. She started singing and playing guitar less than a year ago. She shared her vocal talents at Ventura's Festival of Talent 2016 and is thrilled to be in her first Rubicon production. When not performing, she may be found playing the piano, flip-flopping on the trampoline, or swimming with her swim team. Abigail would like to be a teacher when she grows up and she wants stay involved with the arts throughout her life.

TROY BRAUN (Earthworm) will be a seventh-grader at Ventura Missionary School and has enjoyed the arts since he was very young. He has loved being in a number of Summer Theatre Program musicals at Rubicon Theatre, including The Little Mermaid Jr. (Scuttle the Seagull); The Noble Gnarble (The Noble Gnarble); The Trial of Goldilocks (Baby Bear); The Sanguin Penguin (Percival & Sparky) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Ensemble). He appeared in the Rubicon mainstage production of A Christmas Carol last year and will reprise his role as turkey boy this season. Troy also enjoys piano, taekwondo and playing Minecraft with his friends.


AVA BURGE (Ensemble) lives in Ventura and Ojai with her family and attends Montessori School of Ojai. Ava has appeared in several productions and is best known for her roles as Carmen in Fame Jr. at the OYES theatre and as Flotsam in Ariel at Rubicon Theatre in the Summer of 2015, and the Addams Family in Spring, 2016. Ava loves to do vocal imitations, improv sketches and spontaneous singing. Ava also enjoys pottery and earned her 1st degree black belt in June of last year.


MEGHAN CARTER (Ladybug) jumped into her acting career at the age of seven. After performing in numerous school plays, she decided that her dream was to become a musical theatre performer. It was also then that she decided to pursue her other passion, singing. Meghan began her dream of performing in live productions with Rubicon Theatre Company. She has starred in numerous summer productions, such as Mulan, Jr., where she was an ancestor, Beauty and the Beast Jr., where she played the lead role of Belle, and last year, a Mersister in The Little Mermaid Jr.

GAEL FERNANDEZ (Ensemble) will be starting sixth grade at Ventura Missionary School. Since he was four-years-old, he expressed a love for the arts. He has performed at school productions and is excited about his first appearance on the Rubicon stage. Gael enjoys karate and learning to play the guitar.


GREGORY GILLETT (Centipede) will be a seventh-grader at Ventura Charter School for the Arts and Global Education. He is a natural musician and often composes his own movie themes. He plays the acoustic and electric guitar. He's been involved in the Stinky Feet Theatre and other acting classes at the Rubicon for the past five years. He also performed in VCS' production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last year. Gregory loves to design video game levels and play with his sisters/brother in the backyard pool. Most of all he likes to make people laugh.


LIZZY GONZALEZ (Ensemble) is in the seventh grade at Cabrillo Middle School. She has been acting and performing since she was six-years-old. Lizzy also plays the piano and the viola. In her spare time, Lizzy enjoys paddle boarding, going to the beach, and fishing with her dad.


LAUREN HANSEN (Ensemble) has participated in various Rubicon Theatre productions since she was seven, having appeared in Seussical the Musical, The Legend of the Lightbearers and The Trial of Goldilocks. She is an eighth-grade student at Cabrillo Middle School, and her favorite subject is English, especially creative writing. Lauren also enjoys playing soccer and has been a member of VC Fusion Club Soccer for the past two years. Her real passion is for helping people and animals. Recently she fostered a family of kittens and was able to secure loving homes for them. Lauren hopes to continue to help those in need and aspires to one day become a pediatrician.


KAYA HOFFMANN (Ensemble) is a sixth-grader at Sunset K-8 in Oak View. Born and raised in Egypt, she participated in children's circus there, becoming involved in theatre after moving to California in 2012. Roles include Goldilocks in The Trial of Goldilocks and Mayzie in Fame Jr. Kaya's other hobbies include roller skating tricks, reading thick novels, annoying her two younger brothers, arts and crafts, and cooking.

Ian HolmES (Ensemble) comes to Rubicon this summer from Madrid, Spain where he lives with his family. He has just finished his second year studying Ballet and Spanish Dance at the Royal Conservatory of Dance Mariemma, and is very excited to be performing in this production. When camp ends, he returns to Madrid, where he is one of 16 boys who are taking part in the callback series of intensive dance, voice and acting workshops to prepare final callbacks for the Spanish production of Billy Elliot.


ALEX JANNONE (Grasshopper) has been studying piano, voice and theatre since he was eight-years-old. He has showcased his talent by performing on stage at the Rubicon and also by performing original songs, cover songs, and classical masterpieces on the piano throughout Ventura County. He is learning to play the French horn for the Balboa Middle School band. He loves spending time at home with his dogs and also enjoys activities such as water polo, wakeboarding, snowboarding, surfing, and gaming with his friends.


JULIET JOHNSON (Nurse/Ensemble/Dance Captain) will enter her sophomore year at West Campus High in Sacramento this fall where she is a straight-A student and starting goalie on the soccer team. She has been dancing since before she could even walk and has more than a decade of formal dance training with emphasis in contemporary, hip-hop, and ballet. Juliet is thrilled to return each summer to Rubicon, where she has been performing since her first role in Captain Louie Jr. Last year she played the role of Velma in West Side Story. She has also had success with several commercial roles since she was a baby including a national YMCA commercial and as a spokesperson for Sky High Sports. She has a passion for learning and has become accomplished in piano, speech/debate, computer coding and engineering. She produces a YouTube channel with friends, and has started her own novel. She's most excited about participating in the production of James and the Giant Peach because it's the first production she has been able to do with her baby brother Gregory.


CATHERINE KIM (Spiker) is in eighth grade and is a Principal's Honor Roll student at Crane Country Day School in Montecito. She has been performing for audiences since the age of 3. She is a vocalist, actress, dancer and musician. Most recently, she played Ursula in the 2015 Rubicon Summer Theatre Production of The Little Mermaid Jr. Catherine has also performed Blackbeard and The Wizard of Oz with The Missoula Children's Theatre, The Nutcracker Ballet with Napa Regional Dance Company as well as The State Street Ballet, Sleeping Beauty Ballet with The Goleta School of Ballet, sung concerts and solos with VOENA World Choir, and the St. Helena Unified Drama and Choral Department, as well as participated in annual Music Outreach and charitable fundraising events while living in The Bahamas with Ars Nova Music Club. In 2011, she won the National Title for Folk Singing in the Bahamas and recorded a Coca Cola Commercial for the "Let's Go Crazy" campaign.


ISABELLE KIM (Sponge) is a sixth-grade student on the Principal's Honor Roll at Crane Country Day School in Montecito. Since the age of three, Isabelle has been performing in annual music outreach and charitable performances with The Ars Nova Music Club at The Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas. Most recently, she played Jetsome in the 2015 Rubicon Summer Theater production of The Little Mermaid Jr. Isabelle is a vocalist, actress, poet, musician and dancer. She recently performed in The Goleta School of Ballet's production of Sleeping Beauty as well as the State Street Ballet and Napa Regional Dance Company's production of The Nutrcacker. Isabelle also performed The Wizard of Oz with the Missoula Children's Theatre. When she is not playing volleyball or dancing, she is writing her own poetry or composing her own music on the piano.


CARLY LEANDRO (Ensemble) will be attending Foothill Technology High School in the fall. She enjoys art, music, drama, singing and math. Highlights include exploring Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet and singing in several school performances this year. Carly plays competitive club soccer with VC Fusion, and she excels at socializing with friends, supporting retailers at the local mall, and being active.

LILLIAN LIPPOLD (Ensemble) is extremely excited to be a part of this year's summer program. Some of her past Rubicon appearances include Chip in Beauty and the Beast Jr. and a mersister in The Little Mermaid Jr. Lillian co-directed and produced two variety shows within the past 18 months. After graduating from eighth grade in June, Lillian will continue her theatre education at Rancho Campana's theatre department.

PETER LIPPOLD (Ensemble) has only been in the musical theatre community for about a year. In his short time as an actor, he has been in two shows at Rock City Studios and takes weekly voice lessons. Peter also plays percussion in the form of a drum set. He is twelve and is going into seventh grade. Peter also plans to attend the arts academy at Rancho Campana.


MAYA MOUDERRES (Ensemble) is 10-years-old and has performed in musical theatre since she was four. Her most recent role was as Pugsley in The Addams Family at the Ojai Art Center Theater (OACT). Maya made her Rubicon debut at Rubicon Theatre as Fan/Nell Cratchit in A Christmas Carol last December. Other favorite roles also include, Gub Gub in Dr. Doolittle, Helen Weathers in A Christmas Story at OACT and Flounder in A Little Mermaid, Jr. at Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio. Maya has also performed in three Ojai Youth Opera showcases (Italian, German and French) at OACT and studies voice/piano. When Maya is not singing or acting, she loves to read or to spend time outdoors and with animals of all kinds.

JAYLA VI RAMIREZ (Ensemble) has been focused on dance for the last nine years, and in 2016 she became part of the Got Rhythm Competition Team. In 2014, she became interested in musical theater/acting, and began her voice training. She has appeared in the local musicals Fame and Beyond, Mulan Jr, The Little Mermaid Jr., and has participated in filming a Toyota commercial for the internet.


Mason Rothermel (Ensemble) is delighted to return to Rubicon Theatre, having last appeared as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. Some of his favorite past roles include Tommy Stubbins in Doctor Dolittle, Young Frog in A Year With Frog And Toad, both at the Ojai Art Center. He recently played The Mayor of Munchkin City in The Wizard of Oz at Conejo Players Theatre. Mason loves writing, singing and exploring the outdoors. He is proud to be part of this show that shares a message about uniquely made families.


GRIFFIN SANFORD (James) is from New York and is thrilled to be part of this year's production of James and the Giant Peach JR. He is 11-years-old and this is his second show at Rubicon Theatre. Favorite roles include: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz and Max in Where the Wild Things Are. When not on stage, Griffin loves to play basketball and soccer. He is also a talented musician and studies piano with Vera Kong at the Music Academy of the West. Griffin dedicates this performance to his baby sister who calls him Bobby (we're not sure why).


CHLOE SCOFIELD (Ensemble) is an 11-year-old from Cabrillo Middle school and is thrilled to be back for her second production at Rubicon having previously appeared in The Little Mermaid, Jr. She enjoys playing basketball and is a black belt in taekwondo. In her spare time, Chloe enjoys water color painting, nature photography and reading science fiction stories.


RHETT SPEER (Ladahlord) has been performing on stage in Ventura County since 2008. Two of his favorite roles are Oliver from the musical Oliver!, and, most recently, Gomez Addams in The Addams Family. Rhett studies with The Voice Studio in Ojai and Act True, which is based in Florida.

TAYLOR VAUGHAN (Ensemble) is excited to return to the Rubicon stage. She participated in Beauty in the Beast Jr. in 2014, as well as other local drama programs where she played the parts of Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Taylor will be a freshman at Ventura High School in the fall and plans to participate in their soccer, track and cross country teams, as well as the VHS Wind Ensemble, where she will play the flute. In her free time, Taylor enjoys listening to music, traveling and spending time with friends and family.

ANDILYN ZIEGLER (Spider) has been performing since the age of four. Her passion for the arts began when she sang the National Anthem to kick off a sporting event in her hometown of Camarillo. She is now 11-years-old and has fallen in love with the performing arts. She loves singing, piano, dancing, and performing with her girl group GLAM. Notable productions include Bye Bye Birdie (Cabrillo Music Theater-Kabrillo Kids), Willy Wonka (Camarillo Skyway Playhouse) and The Little Mermaid, Jr. (Rubicon Theatre Company). When Andilyn is not performing on stage, she is composing her own music on the piano, running track for Club Cosmos and dancing at The Dance Company.


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