Dare I admit to being a hesitant fan of Roald Dahl? I know there are many die-hard supporters but I sometimes struggle with the off-kilter world represented in his stories. But there is no denying Mr Dahl’s ability to create an imaginable world out of the unimaginable. When I heard that the Carousel Theatre for Young People was mounting James & the Giant Peach, I knew I would enjoy their production. I have now attended four productions by Carousel Theatre for Young People and have raved about every single one. The parents at the school drop-off zone know all about the CTYP shows; we attend one and I show up the next day telling everyone to go buy tickets. James and the Giant Peach had the exact same effect on me.
I don’t know who to commend first. The young boy, Julian Lokash, who played James is top-notch. He is actually reprising the role he successfully held last year in the same production. Wow! His voice is exceptional; kudos for him for fully embracing his soprano range. He has hundreds of lines and countless emotions to convey the ups and downs of an orphaned, cruelly-treated boy, who befriends adult-sized insects. Not an easy role by any standard.
Next up for congratulations is Jonathan Winsby who plays the Mysterious Man, Hollywood producer and Earthworm. Many moons ago (more moons than I care to admit) Jonathan and I were at UBC together. We collaborated on a number of musicals back then and I still delight in getting to hear his fantastic voice. His stints on Broadway and at Stratford have only further honed his natural talents. Jonathan takes on three very distinct characters in this production of James and the Giant Peach. He does all of them brilliantly; his wonderful sense of humour really shines through.
The other supporting actors (Makayla Moore who plays Spider, Andrew Cownden – Centipede, Kayla Dunbar – Lady Bug, and Alex Rose – Grasshopper) do a tremendous job of embodying mannerisms of their respective insect-characters. There wasn’t a weak performer in the group. Everyone can sing and dance. The performance was a true delight to watch.
The two ladies who take on the roles of the mean aunts – Aunt Sponge played by Deborah Williams and Aunt Spiker played by Patti Allan – did a bang up job of oozing evilness. Their over-the-top portrayal of the caustic, sharp-tongued, self-serving aunts was brilliant. Our kids couldn’t stop talking about how mean they were. As we told our boys, if you dislike them that much then the actresses did their job perfectly.
The staging of James and the Giant Peach was a character in and of itself. The scope of the staging needs is immense. From a crashing rhino to a growing and ultimately massive peach, from a cruise ship to the Empire State building, the visual needs of the play far exceeded the small confines of the Waterfront Theatre. The use of the entire theatre was a very clever work-around to countless scene changes.
The production of James and the Giant Peach runs at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island. Tickets are still available and performances run until January 3rd 2016. A perfect gift for under the tree would be a family trip to see the Carousel Theatre for Young People’s production of James and the Giant Peach.