James and the Giant Peach, the Musical, Being Developed

News   James and the Giant Peach, the Musical, Being Developed Goodspeed Musicals has a musical version of James and the Giant Peach in its basket, having plucked a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop the project with Work Light Productions' principal partner Stephen Gabriel and writer Timothy A. McDonald.

Drawing on the famous children's story by Roald Dahl, the new work is one of many new musicals Goodspeed works on. Its developmental status with the Connecticut troupe does not necessarily guarantee a full production with the company; new work is part of the Tony Award-winning company's mission.

James and the Giant Peach is being created in conjunction with librettist McDonald, who co-wrote the Dahl-based touring musical Willy Wonka (with songs by Leslie Bricusse) and co-wrote Goodspeed's current world-premiere musical Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. No songwriters have been announced for the Peach project, but modern dance and movement troupe Pilobolus is being tapped to contribute to the show, which concerns a boy who burrows deep into a giant peach to meet human-sized insects. When the fruit becomes dislodged from a tree on a hill, a fruitful adventure begins.

The Peach project came to light in recent days when the NEA announced new grant recipients. Work Light brought the project to Goodspeed, and the not-for-profit Goodspeed applied for the NEA money.

Work Light Productions LLC "is dedicated to creating and producing live entertainment." Its productions — from Broadway Junior On Tour and Disney's Cinderella and The Jungle Book to the first touring production of Tony-nominated Best Musical A Year With Frog and Toad — visit major performing arts centers across North America. The company launched two new musicals in the 2007 season: The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley and Frankly Ben. Work Light also produced the symphonic theatrical event Julie Andrews' The Gift of Music.

It bills James and the Giant Peach as "a new large scale musical." For more information about the history and projects of Worklight Productions, visit www.worklightproductions.com. Writer McDonald was the founding director of Music Theatre International's Education Division, and during his tenure developed the Broadway Junior Collection, KIDS Collection, School Edition Musicals and Theatre for Young Audiences Collection, "introducing millions of young people to the life-enhancing experience of theatre." He has worked with Stephen Sondheim, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Stephen Schwartz, Cameron Macintosh and many others, adapting their works for young people to perform. McDonald co-wrote the musical Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, which opened at the Kennedy Center, toured for two years, and was performed at the White House. He also supervised the creative development of eight musicals in association with Disney Theatrical Productions; titles include Disney's Aladdin JR., 101 Dalmatians KIDS, The Jungle Book KIDS, Cinderella KIDS, Mulan JR., Alice in Wonderland JR., Sleeping Beauty KIDS and The Aristocats KIDS. McDonald recently founded his own company, iTheatrics.com, which is "dedicated to making the world safe for children and theatre everywhere."

For more information visit www.timothyamcdonald.com.

Michael P. Price is executive director of Goodspeed Musicals, which operates the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, and the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT. The latter is a home for developing new musicals.

Visit www.goodspeedmusicals.org.

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A new non-musical stage version of James and the Giant Peach is currently playing at Arden Theatre Company's Otto Haas Stage in Philadelphia. The production uses animation to help create the fantastical world of the story.

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