Pasek and Paul's Repolished James and the Giant Peach Will Get Seattle Premiere; Kendra Kassebaum Among Cast
By Michael Gioia
The Seattle Children's Theatre will present a retooled version of James and the Giant Peach, the musical version of the Roald Dahl work of the same name that features a score by Tony Award nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story, the Musical; Dogfight) and a book by Timothy Allen McDonald (The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley).
Directed by SCT artistic director Linda Hartzell, the musical will run Nov. 21, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014.
"[Benj, Justin and Timothy] are working on [this production] as if it's the most important show in their minds, and that's what I love about the three of them," director Hartzell told Playbill.com, who said the trio of writers were in attendance for auditions as well as a week of workshopping the project in July.
The piece — which is being reworked since its 2010 world premiere at Goodspeed Musicals — will feature the addition and subtraction of songs to its score and a new framing device (the character of Magwitch, who, at times, functioned as the musical's narrator, is gone). Dance troupe Pilobolus, who helped create the world of James and the Giant Peach, is also no longer attached.
"They're really involved with script rewrites," added Hartzell, who said that the show will also incorporate the use of "sophisticated" and "innovative" puppetry to deal with the events on stage, including the show's title character, the Giant Peach.
The cast includes Mike Spee as James, Rich Gray as Centipede, Heath Saunders as Earthworm, Greg McCormick Allen as Grasshopper, Kendra Kassebaum (Leap of Faith, Wicked) as Ladybug, Diana Huey as Spider, Julie Briskman as Sponge and Jayne Muirhead as Spiker with Vickielee Wohlbach, Ian Lindsay and Auston James.
Here's how SCT bills the musical: "When James is sent by his conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion which results in a tremendous peach – and launches a journey of enormous proportions. Suddenly James finds himself in the center of the gigantic peach among human-sized insects with equally oversized personalities, but after it falls from the tree and rolls into the ocean, the group faces hunger, sharks and plenty of disagreements. Thanks to James; quick wit and creative thinking, the residents learn to live and work together as a family. The dangerous voyage is a success, but the adventure takes a whole new twist once they land on the Empire State Building."
Other members of the creative team include fight choreographer Geoff Alm, costume designer Cathy Hunt, arielist coach Lara Paxton, puppet designer/coach Annett Mateo, lighting designer Michelle Habeck, music director Chris Distefano, choreographer Marianne Roberts, scenic designer Carey Wong, sound designer Chris R. Walker stage manager Mike Egan and production assistant Julianna Brei-Crawley.
The Seattle Children's Theatre is located at 201 Thomas Street in Seattle, WA. For more information, visit SCT.org.
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