The children’s holiday show at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) this year was a musical version of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. My husband and I went to see it with our older grandson and granddaughter.
Last year, invited by our grandson’s friend and her grandmother, we attended A.R.T.’s musical about a pirate princess. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good view. Somehow or other I had failed to complete my ticket purchase, and we ended up standing in the back much of the time.
This year we were right up front. Our six-year-old grandson was thoroughly engaged with the performance this year. His three-year-old sister, dressed up like a princess, was riveted but felt safest watching the show from my lap.
“What happened to James’s mother and father?” was her first question as the lights went up at the end. I reluctantly reported that they were eaten by a rhinoceros but added that, of course, “That’s pretend. Rhinoceroses don’t eat people.” She took it in stride and later told the theater-going neighbor from down the street that she loved the show.
One thing A.R.T. likes to do with children’s shows is provide some interactivity. For the Pirate Princess, there were actors in costumes before the performance wandering around the lobby and posing for pictures with the children. For Giant Peach, children could make origami fortune tellers (once called “cootie catchers”) that looked either like herring gulls or sharks. When sharks and gulls appeared in the production, children were encouraged to activate their own small versions. Our grandchildren both made sharks.
An adult played James in a childlike way. After James’s parents vanish, he’s sent sent to live with two nasty aunts, played by men. He is rescued when magic beans turn a peach into something big enough to crush the aunts.
As the peach grows, the critters inside the peach become giant-sized themselves (earthworm, spider, ladybug, centipede) and soon join forces with James as they all float skyward in the peach.
Each bug contributes special skills to extricating the team from dangers. I especially liked the blind earthworm, whose special skill turned out to be posing as bait for fearsome gulls so his friends could harness them with Miss Spider’s silk to get the peach away from sharks.
You can read more about the production here. Last chance to see the show is January 8, 2017.