Last year, Eastern Regional High School Theater’s fall production was “Amadeus,” a solemn, serious show. This year, the theater program is going in a completely different direction with the whimsical play of “James and the Giant Peach,” based on the book by Roald Dahl. The play is adapted by David Wood.
“It really exposes kids to different genres, and children’s theater is its own unique thing,” said director Gregg Molotsky. “We’ve gotten a lot of creative input with this show. There’s audience participation, certainly something you don’t get in Holocaust dramas or serious shows like ‘Amadeus.’ It’s been a very positive experience for the kids.”
Molotsky has always changed the genres of the fall plays throughout the years and part of the reason he chose “James and the Giant Peach” is because of Dahl’s 100th birthday.
“I wanted to do what I think is a more engaging show, which is to do it without the singing,” said Molotsky. “This is an adoption of the book, rather than the musical version.”
“James and the Giant Peach” is about a young boy, James, who enters a colossal, magical peach and goes on an adventure with various insects — the Centipede, the Old Green Grasshopper, the Earthworm and the Ladybug. While on this adventure, he tries to escape from his mean aunts — sisters Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge.
Junior Lauren Cianfrani of Berlin plays Aunt Spiker, a mean character she’s not used to playing in other shows, but she likes the challenge. It’s even more of a challenge because she’s on stilts the entire time and getting quite a workout.
“My calves hurt,” she laughed. “It’s different being a mean aunt. I’m usually more of a happier character but taking on this vindictive role is fun.”
Senior Gary Bowman of Voorhees takes on the role of The Old Green Grasshopper and loves the playfulness of his character and the other insects.
“Playing an insect, it’s a blast because it’s so goofy,” he said. “Because everyone in the peach is insects — spider, earthworm, grasshopper, centipede and ladybug — we get to play those and we’re all ridiculous and more over the top than the next.”
What also contributes to the playful factor is the giant, 10-foot peach made out of paper mache that will be on stage. Cianfrani and Bowman both agreed the special effects add a special touch, especially when most years’ props are tables and chairs.
“This play is a lot more exciting than the other ones we’ve done,” said Bowman. “Last year we did ‘Amadeus,’ which is really depressing and sad, but this one is fun and upbeat and the special effects really add to it.”
“I have to say it’s a lot more whimsical and it really captures the magic of theater,” said Cianfrani. “It’s a lot more fun, like Gary was saying, with the special effects and especially the peach growing.”
Sophomore Bobby Weil of Voorhees, who plays James, likes playing a character that’s not one-dimensional.
“He’s like a kid that has more imagination so you can display that through the actions and all the lines you say,” he said.
Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at http://eccrsd.booktix.com or at the door prior to the show. For more information, call the high school at (856) 784–4441.