Grasshopper, Ladybug, Earthworm, Spider, Centipede and James request your presence at the Lawton Ballet Theatre’s upcoming presentation of “James and the Giant Peach: The Musical.”
Based on the Roald Dahl book and Disney film of the same name, the musical follows James, an orphan English boy who is looking for a way to escape his awful aunts. After encountering a magic man, James finds a giant peach has grown up in his backyard. While his aunts want to exploit the peach, James goes inside of it where he meets Grasshopper, Ladybug, Earthworm, Spider and Centipede — bugs that also are looking to escape the aunts.
James ends up on a surreal voyage across the world inside the peach. Along the way he and his new friends become a family.
“The kids are having a lot of fun with it and it’s really impressive what they’ve been able to do,” Katie Barnett Veenhuizen, the owner and artistic director of the theatre, said.
Veenhuizen’s students have been rehearsing for this junior musical right alongside their spring recital. With a total cast and crew list of 16, Veenhuizen said her students have stayed busy.
“Usually these musicals would come earlier, but with the way all of the groups in town have had to schedule events this spring and maneuver around each other, this is what worked best. But the kids love performing. Ours is a very performance-based studio,” Veenhuizen said.
There will be plenty of treats for fans of the originals, according to Veenhuizen, who said the show is vocally very different than anything her students have done in the past.
“If you’ve read the book or if you’ve seen the movie, then you know that every character is sort of over-the-top. So there is a lot of vocal acting they are having to do,” Veenhuizen said.
Of course, one of the central characters of “James and the Giant Peach” is, well, the peach. Serving as the main setting, the peach provides a backdrop for most of the musical’s action. Veenhuizen promises that the sets will live up to their name.
“We have some really cool sets,” Veenhuizen said. “You know, this is such a fantasy world because, well, there’s a giant peach. But we also have our props person, Emily Watley, making these incredible puppets. I’m impressed with them, I mean I’m probably biased, but still.”
Since this is a junior version of the show, all of the participants are under 18, with the youngest being 10 years old. With a runtime of right around 60 minutes, Veenhuizen said the show is great for children.
“If you want to foster an interest in reading and the arts in your kids, this is a great one, and it is very interactive. I’d say someone as young as 3 years old would enjoy this,” Veenhuizen said.
Unlike the theatre’s most recent musical, “Into the Woods,” which was held in December for friends and family only, “James and the Giant Peach” will be open to everyone who wants to attend. Those who do will witness a touching tribute to a local Lawton theatre stalwart who recently passed away, Barbara Hunter, Lawton Community Theatre’s former costumer.
“Our entire cast and crew were all close to Barbara. Our director wanted to dedicate the show to her,” Veenhuizen said.
With the blessing of Hunter’s friends and family, the theatre will dedicate the musical in her memory.
“Our director will make a memorial speech on opening night,” Veenhuizen said. “We all miss her, and the kids loved the idea.”