On a delicious journey

Youths star in Olympia production based on quirky kid’s tale ‘James and the Giant Peach’

Contributing writerFebruary 1, 2013 

Tonight, Olympia Family Theater sets out on a journey around the world — on a giant piece of fruit.

The theater is presenting “James and the Giant Peach,” last produced in 2008. This time, the peach will be populated with young actors ages 12-17.

The show is based on the classic Roald Dahl novel, which begins with the sad tale of young James, whose parents die a violent death. He is left in the care of his evil aunts, Spiker and Sponge.

It’s all pretty bleak — until the peach arrives and begins to grow, with help from stagecraft. (The show features a half-dozen peaches, from small papier-mché creations, to one that rolls across the stage, to an 8-foot-long one on a platform that James and friends ride on their journey.)

“The story is so well-known,” said Samantha Chandler, managing director at OFT, “and we liked the adaptation a lot.”

The script gives the young cast (15 in all) lots of juicy roles, she said — with the juiciest being the aunts, the insects and of course James himself.

One of the insects, Old Green Grasshopper, provides live music during the show. The fiddle-playing bug is played by Maggie Neatherlin, who’s 12 and in seventh grade at NOVA School in Olympia. Maggie plays in multiple bands, including her family’s Fiddle-I-Ay.

“She’s doing a great job,” Chandler said.

The one play per year that OFT produces with youth actors aims to achieve the same quality as the shows that star experienced adult actors, she said.

All of the youth actors have experience, many with OFT — but even the most experienced young actor is short on life experience, she said.

“It’s a good thing that our James doesn’t really know what it’s like to be desperate and miserable,” she said. “I wouldn’t want that for him, but as an actor, that makes it challenging for him. You live with these horrible aunts and your parents have been killed, but how do you make that realistic?”

Aidan Hoey, an eighth-grader at Olympia’s Washington Middle School, is playing James, and he’s rising to the challenge, she said. It’s just an extra step in preparing for the journey to the stage.

“Watching kids do their best work can be as rewarding as watching actors who have years of experience doing their best work — just maybe in a different way,” Chandler said. ‘James and the Giant Peach’

What: Olympia Family Theater presents its annual youth production, David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book about an orphaned boy who travels across the ocean in a peach.

When: 7 p.m. today and Feb. 7, 8, 14 and 15; matinees at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Feb. 9, 10, 16 and 17; a 4:30 p.m. show on Feb. 9 and 16.

Where: Black box theater at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

Tickets: $16 general admission; $9 for ages 12 and younger; $12 for seniors, students and military; for the Feb. 7 performance, pay what you can.

More information: 360-570-1638 or olyft.com; for tickets, 360-753-8586 or olytix.org

Also: The play will be most enjoyed by those ages 6 and older.

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