By Kenneth Jones
13 Dec 2008
|Photo by Mark Garvin|
Whit MacLaughlin directs the project as part of Arden Children's Theatre. Performances continue to Feb. 8, 2009.
Unique animation helps create the dark and juicy world of the story. The titular peach is more than 15-feet high.
Five projectors are used to project images to screens onstage. "The animations are being used to enhance the storytelling onstage and bring to life the many locations and creatures James and the bugs encounter — the ocean, the sky, London, New York, a rhino, an octopus, seagulls" and more, according to production notes.
The show's look includes custom-made stop-motion animations as well as computer-generated animations. Found objects (tissue paper, card board, plastic wrap and paper towels) are among materials filmed in the animation process.
Director MacLaughlin stated, "I am always striving to invent new and exciting worlds for families at the Arden. I created a world of puppets, humans and gigantic scale shifts in The Big Friendly Giant (The BFG), a world of time and adventure in Sleeping Beauty, and a safe haven for friendship in A Year with Frog and Toad. Now, in James and the Giant Peach, we are building a whole imaginative universe out of live actors interacting with animations. It's kinda like Pixar, but live."
Jorge Cousineau, Philadelphia's acclaimed sound and lighting designer, collaborates to create the visual world of the show.
According to the Arden, "From the author of the Arden's smash hit The BFG, another of Roald Dahl's beloved books comes to vivid life. Young orphan James is sent to live with his horrible Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. Long days of grueling chores and demeaning remarks from his Aunts make James' life miserable, until one day when a mysterious stranger arrives and suddenly James' life is turned upside-down! When the stranger accidentally spills some unusual crystals on his aunts' withered peach tree, magic abounds and James finds an enormous peach growing in his yard! James crawls inside to the very center of the peach where he finds an unusual group of talking insects. The peach starts rolling downhill and James' extraordinary adventure begins."
The cast includes James Ijames as James, Stephanie English as Aunt Sponge, Harum Ulmer, Jr. as Aunt Spiker, Frederick Andersen as Earthworm, Oberon Adjepong as Grasshopper, Ceal Phelan as Spider, Amanda Schoonover as Ladybird and Brian Osborne as Centipede.
The creative team also includes scenic designer Matt Saunders, costume designer Christal Weatherly and lighting designer Brian J. Lilienthal. James and the Giant Peach features a playful original score by award-winning actor, musician and composer James Sugg.
Every performance includes a post-show question-and-answer session with the cast, and all kids receive a free commemorative show poster and are invited to meet the cast in the lobby after each performance.
Arden Theatre Company is located at 40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia. For tickets, call (215) 922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.