James and the Giant Peach, the Musical, Blossoms With the Help of Pilobolus, Oct. 21
By Kenneth Jones
The twisting bodies of the internationally known dance troupe Pilobolus help create the fantastical world of the new musical Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, launching in a developmental world premiere Oct. 21 in Connecticut. Broadway's Graciela Daniele directs.
The Tony Award-winning Goodspeed Musicals is producing the show by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who share music and lyric chores) and Timothy Allen McDonald (book). Performances play Goodspeed's space for new work, the Norma Terris Theatre, in Chester, CT. As this is the premiere of the show and its elements are being tested, no critics are invited, but a paying audience attends. Performances play to Nov. 21.
Young actor Justin Lawrence Hall, a recent Michael Banks in the national tour of Mary Poppins, landed the plum role of James, who meets friendly human-sized insects inside a massive peach pit within the flesh of the title fruit.
The cast for the production — directed by Daniele (Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, Once on This Island, Annie Get Your Gun) and choreographed by Michael Tracy and the acclaimed Pilobolus troupe — also includes Ruth Gottschall (the wicked Miss Andrew in Broadway's Mary Poppins) as Spiker; Denny Dillon ("Saturday Night Live," My One and Only) as Sponge; Steve Rosen (Spamalot, Guys and Dolls) as Marvo the Magician; Nick Gaswirth (Centipede); Jessica Hershberg; Wicked's Chelsea Kromback (Mrs. Trotter/ Ladybug); Rent's Destan Owens (Earthworm); Marissa Lindsay Palley; Nicholas Park; Lestat's Jim Stanek (Mr. Trotter/Green Grasshopper); Emmet Otter's Kate Wetherhead; Minami Yusui and Pilobolus dancers Otis Cook, Heather Jeane Favretto, Edwin Olvera, Roberto Olvera, Annika Sheaff and Derek Stratton.
A songwriting team, Pasel & Paul are the youngest recipients of the Jonathan Larson Award, and were also selected as Dramatist Guild Fellows and served as series songwriters for Disney Channel's Emmy-nominated series "Johnny and the Sprites." Their first show, Edges, has been produced in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.
Librettist McDonald is a playwright (Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, Jim Henson's Emmet Otter, The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley) and director (The Phantom Tollbooth, Dear Edwina).
Here's how Goodspeed characterizes the new musical based on the beloved children's book: "When James is shipped off to live with his wretched aunts, he longs for a real family and a new home. All seems lost until he discovers a magical giant peach filled with a mix of fantastical creatures. Together with Green Grasshopper, Ladybug, Centipede and more, James embarks on a most extraordinary adventure, sailing across the sea to distant lands."
The production team also includes scenic designer Chris Barreca, lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge, music director Chris Fenwick, dance arranger Sam Davis and orchestrator August Eriksmoen.
The Norma Terris Theatre is located at 33 North Main Street in Chester, CT. Tickets are available now through the Goodspeed Opera House box office at (860) 873-8668 or by visiting www.goodspeed.org.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is currently playing at Goodspeed's mainstage, The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT.
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