Eat a (giant) peach, see an inspiring show at Children’s Musical Theaterworks
Children’s Musical Theaterworks is in the opening weekend of the musical “James and the Giant Peach,” based on the beloved book by Roald Dahl. Here are Five Things to Know about the show:
1. Yes, it really is about a giant peach.
Here’s a synopsis:
When James loses his parents in a sudden accident, his malicious, abusive and conniving Aunts take him in and torture him for years. One day while doing his daily chores, he encounters a man who gives him a magic potion. James spills the potion on a dead peach tree, which grows a peach to gigantic proportions. The Aunts capitalize on the public interest for the peach, and James becomes fed up. One night, he sees an entrance appear on the peach and he decides to go through it. he meets six human-size insects; Grasshopper, Spider, Ladybug, Centipede, Earthworm and Glowworm. When Centipede bites through the stem, the peach rolls through the town and into the Atlantic ocean for an adventure filled with music, wisdom and adventure.
2. The director, C.J. Dion, has a great story to share about “Peach,” one of his favorite books.
We’ll let him tell it:
” ‘James’ was and is one of my favorite books. My older sister, whom I have always been very close to, had to read it for Miss Smith’s (her fourth grade teacher) class and do a papier-mâché book report. I’m two years younger, so I didn’t read it the first round, but of course assisted with the arts and crafts portion of the assignment. I remember the wonder of this book that had talking bugs and a Peach the size of Bulldog Stadium. (Jim Sweeney is my grandfather … everything was a Bulldog reference).
“Two years later, I am in Mrs Renwick’s class (same teacher, got married) and I am doing my own (better in my humble opinion) version of the papier-mâché book report, and “James” had become my favorite book.
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“Fast forward to three weeks ago. I am in Target in the toy section looking for props and things for my show, and who comes up behind me? Mrs. Terri Renwick! She said, “I saw Facebook!!! I remember how much you loved that book! I’m coming to see it! Can’t wait!”
“Now if that isn’t kismet or serendipity or the cosmos or whatever, I don’t know what is!”
By the way: Dion brings a wealth of theater experience to this role as director. Locally he has done shows with Clovis West, Good Company Players, and CenterStage Productions. He worked as an actor in New York for eight years — and was fortunate to consistently get work. He then made the move back to the West Coast and performed in San Francisco and the East Bay for a few years before coming home to Fresno.
3. The composing team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the music and lyrics for this show. That’s a big deal.
Pasek and Paul are responsible for the monster Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” along with such gems as the musicals “Dogfight” and “A Christmas Story.” Oh, and they also won an Oscar for writing the lyrics to the music in “La La Land.”
“I think the music in this show is current and wonderful,” Dion says. “It’s a great writing team and I feel like the music is eclectic and memorable.”
4. The set is special.
The show opens opens with a song titled “Right Before Your Eyes,” and Dion came up with the concept of a troupe of actors touring the world telling this the story through the use of found objects.
“I love a junkyard opera, and so I thought that it would be interesting, and an homage to CMT, if our set be configured from set pieces of CMT past,” Dion says.
“Dan Adalpe, our designer, took that idea, and what came from that is 100% what I envisioned. The whole process was easy because we all were on the same brainwave. You have to make a peach land on the Empire State Building. This is no easy task. But I truly believe we make magic on that stage I got choked up the first time I watched the set rotate.”
5. Pay special attention to the character of Spider.
There are a lot of subtle things that happen throughout the show, Dion says. Character choices and costume design are great things to pay attention to.
“We added a lot of silly things that add depth and layers to the bugs,” Dion says. “Watch Spider — she is always doing something that will make you giggle or intrigue you, mostly when she isn’t speaking. Hint: When we first meet her in the Peach, she is “swiping left” with a passion.”