Roald Dahl’s perennial work tends to gather no moss — clichéd or not, this is a fitting image when it comes to a magical giant peach that can cross oceans and age gaps. The classic British children’s book, written in 1961, has been retooled into a new musical, James and the Giant Peach Jr., and it marks the first Studio 52 production of the season at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown.
More than two-dozen local youth actors are featured in the play, making it an important community event that links multiple generations. Way more edgy than precious, Dahl’s story concerns ambitious boy James Henry Trotter, who survives two gruesomely tyrannical aunts with a little help from his friends Grasshopper, Ladybug, Spider, Earthworm, and Centipede, making a transatlantic journey on his magically mobile fruit in search of a better life in New York City.
“I was first introduced to Roald Dahl as a struggling young reader in elementary school,” notes the play’s director, David Hart, in a press statement. “My teacher at the time was hoping to engage me with [Dahl’s best-known work] Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and she was right, it was the reading hook I needed. From the first pages I was drawn into … Dahl’s choice of words, his imagination, his strange environments — equal parts funny, warm, dark, dangerous, mysterious and fully adventurous.”
After many years in the hopper, the newly rewritten musical has finally been released (Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, music, and Timothy Allen McDonald, script, are responsible for the new adaptation). The local production, inventively framed in a circus setting, will incorporate puppetry, dance, and multimedia projections.
“Today, many of [Dahl’s] works have found success professionally … [including] Steven Spielberg’s upcoming The BFG [Big Friendly Giant],” Hart notes to Bold Life. “I truly can’t say enough about the incredible Flat Rock Playhouse staff working with all their hearts and talents to bring their very best to each of our children’s productions. … Especially with our theming of James in a circus, the team has brought unforgettable visuals to our stage.”
James and the Giant Peach, Jr., March 11-20 at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown (125 S. Main St.). Friday and Saturdays at 7pm; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. $10-$18. 828-693-0731, 866-732-8008, or visit flatrockplayhouse.org.