The lively musical “James and the Giant Peach” opens Oct. 9 at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. Based on Roald Dahl’s first classic novel for children, it was adapted for the stage by Timothy Allen McDonald and is the second production of VYT’s 27th season.
Tony-nominated songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul provide the music and lyrics, which Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director, said he found incredibly touching. “During the auditions,” he added, “I was brought to tears when two of my cast members (Addison Bowman and Isabella Conner) sang a beautiful ballad from the score called ‘Everywhere That You Are.’” Cooper explained that the song is sung by the bugs to assure James “that even though his parents are gone, they will always be with him in spirit.”
The play’s story focuses on James, a young orphan boy forced to live with his mean-spirited aunts after his parents suddenly pass away. When they send him out to the yard to chop down their old fruit tree, his life takes a dramatic turn: he discovers a magic potion that creates a gigantic peach. James suddenly finds himself inside the peach on a dangerous journey across the ocean. On the voyage, he encounters human-sized insects with equally oversized personalities. If they want to survive, they must all learn to live and work together.
Heading the cast as James is 11-year-old Owen Watson, who is returning to the VYT stage for his sixth time. Most recently he was part of the children’s choir in VYT’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” presented at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Before that, he played the Beaver in “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail,” Edmund in “Narnia,” Max the Dog in “Seussical the Musical” and a Lost Boy in “Peter Pan.”
Alex Watson, Owen’s older brother, also takes part in the production by operating all the fun gadgets behind the scenes. This is his fourth time at VYT.
“VYT is very family oriented,” said Cooper, “and we are always excited when families get involved in shows together. Being a part of a show together can be both thrilling and a real test of love.”
Other notable young actors include Sam Primack (Earthworm), who appeared as Jack in VYT’s “Into the Woods” and as Pugsley Addams on the national tour of “The Addams Family,” and Charlie Siegel, who performed in the national tour of “The Wizard of Oz.” He is returning for his 12th show with VYT.
In addition to those noted above, the following talented young entertainers round out the magical cast of creepy-crawly characters: Lauren Baber, Ensemble; Connor Baker, Centipede; Nora Baier, Ensemble; Sophia Bavishi, Ensemble; Addison Bowman, Spiker; Brandon Brown, Ensemble; Isabella Conner, Ladybug; Hugo Crick-Furman, Ensemble; Kayla Dobbs, Ensemble; Nathan Franzke, Grasshopper; Haley Hanni, Sponge; Tiana Marks, Spider; Clark Shaeffer, Ladahlord; Avery Strachan, Glowworm; Andy Wissink, Ensemble.
“James and the Giant Peach” runs through Oct. 25 at VYT, 525 N. First St. in Phoenix. Tickets, which are $18 not including fees, may be purchased by calling the box office at 602-252-8188, ext. 307, or by visiting www.vyt.com.