Hindi Greenberg: ‘James and the Giant Peach’ is not to be missed | TheUnion.com

Hindi Greenberg: ‘James and the Giant Peach’ is not to be missed

Hindi Greenberg
Bren Altenbach (as James), Angela William (as Spider), Tina Marie Kelley (as Centipede), Darrell Hovander (as Earthworm), Dawn Simmons (as Ladybug) and Danny McCammon (as Grasshopper) on the Giant Peach in the Sierra Stages production of “Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach” at the Nevada Theatre through Aug. 4.
Photo by David Wong

As soon as you walk into the Nevada Theatre and see the stunning set and lighting design for “Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach,” you know you’re in for an amazing and fantastical treat. Sierra Stages has brought this fun, lively, tuneful, funny play to exhilarating life for both adults and kids to enjoy.

“James and the Giant Peach” is a musical adaptation of Dahl’s famous story about a lonely orphan boy, his two evil aunts, people-sized talking bugs, a humongous magic peach, and a voyage on the sea and through the air.

With lyrics and beautiful music by the Tony and Academy Award winning songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and book by Timothy Allen McDonald, this is a tale about self-discovery, love and finding the true meaning of family.

Even if you or your kids/grandkids haven’t read Dahl’s book (he’s also famous for writing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), you’ll follow along as the story is told and guided by Ladahlord, a comically over-the-top character, sung and danced perfectly by Micah Cone.

And as outrageous as it may seem for James’s parents to be eaten by a stampeding rhinoceros, or for magic crystals to cause a peach to grow to colossal size so it can double as a ship on the sea, or for giant bugs to sing, dance and emote, the actors that play Grasshopper (Danny McCammon), Ladybug (Dawn Simmons), Spider (Angela Williams), Earthworm (Darrell Hovander) and Centipede (Tina Marie Kelley) so humanize and make lovable their characters (at least eventually), that the audience — kids and adults — believes (or wants to believe) the tale.

Adding to the fine ensemble work is the vocally talented Bren Altenbach as James, along with his two aunts, the food obsessed Sponge, hilariously over-acted by Kate Haight, and the plotting Spiker, sinisterly played by Susan Mason. More fun and song are provided by eight additional actors dancing, singing, miming and puppeteering varied roles.

As fine as the ensemble and individual performances are, the visually extravagant and elaborate set design by Teresa Shea (who also designed the very clever puppets) is a gorgeous and integral part of the production’s success. Further enhancing the visual elements are the exciting and intricate lighting design by Erin Beatie and Devin Cameron Jewett, and the imaginative, colorful costume and hair design by Leslie Dilloway. And when Centipede becomes seasick, the sound design by Eric Foote is almost too good.

Bob Rossman’s creative, yet touching, direction of this show kept even the youngest audience members enthralled — there were a lot of kids, but I heard nary a sound, except for laughter or gasps of surprise. Plus, an exceptional band of nine musicians, including musical director Ken Getz on keyboard, played beautifully and kept the singing and dancing on time and tune.

Everything about this musical was fun, clever, musically excellent and worthwhile seeing. The play will show at the Nevada Theatre only through Aug. 4. Take your kids or grandkids, grab a neighborhood kid or go alone, but don’t miss this lively, engaging show!

Hindi Greenberg might now think twice when spotting a spider. But if it’s in her house, she’ll still probably swat it and just hope it doesn’t send its spouse after her.

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