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Gettysburg Community Theater Presents “James and the Giant Peach”

When I was asked to write a story on Director/Choreographer Linden Carbaugh’s rendition of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach at the Gettysburg Community Theater, I knew I would be in for a treat. But I never imagined how much I would enjoy myself, or the emotions it would touch within my own heart.

The story concerns James Henry Trotter (admirably played by Chase Bowman) as a seven year old orphan who is left lost and alone after the death of his loving parents. One night, in the realms of his imagination, he remembers and longs for his parents and the love he once knew.  But shortly after falling asleep, James is abruptly awakened by the orphanage’s Matron (Taryn He) bursting through the door and informing James he must go live with his two evil Aunts, Spiker (Tessa Trax, who excellently portrays the spoiled, lazy, and materialistic qualities of her character), and Sponge (Audrey Trax, the brains of the operation who plots to get rich quick in every move they make), effective immediately. 

Neither James nor the two aunts seem to be very happy about the new arrangement, but Spiker and Sponge never let a good tragedy go to waste, devising a plan to put him to good use in their “no good” maniacal schemes.

James is realizing that this is not going to be the “happily ever after” he was hoping for when a mysterious stranger (Kai Dittrich) appears out of nowhere, offering him a magic potion of slithering crocodile tongues — and potential freedom. 

Just as it seems it has all gone wrong, something peculiar begins to happen, and a giant peach begins growing on a barren tree. Spiker and Sponge cook up new schemes to get rich quick, and punish James by making him sleep outside to guard the tree.

In the middle of the night the peach (and the magic) grow and James suddenly finds himself inside the peach, nose to nose with a giant spider (Andi Athanasakis) who is actually quite gentle and compassionate, Grasshopper (Caden Miller), a wise-cracking centipede (Mikey Athanasakis), Ladybug (Sarah Rice), and a shy and timid earthworm (Theo Gageby) who later overcomes her fears. 

Jame’s initial concerns of being eaten by the new characters are soon replaced with the realization that they all share a lot more in common than he ever could have imagined.

As James and his new friends ponder the great meaning of life, love, and loss within the peach, they suddenly find themselves rolling downhill towards New York City, through a certain world-famous chocolate factory, out to sea, and off on a great new adventure. 

Through this adventure they will face their fears, find friendship, compassion, and incredible courage, as well as something none of them had ever known – freedom.

Technical Director Michael Connelly and the show designers showed their knack for bringing the stage to life, making the audience feel they are part of each and every scene, with the use of clever costumes, visual aids, light settings, sound effects, and an assortment of props. 

Music Director Mary George brought the period songs, from the 1930s (and sometimes 1960s) to life.

The cast uses a unique technique in which they sing to mimic the sound of the insects they played. Despite making it a bit difficult to make out some of the lyrics, the technique added a “Remarkouslyfantasmarific” quality to each character.

Linden Carbaugh`s playful choreography had members of the audience grooving right along with the cast members.

Favorites of mine were Grasshopper’s song reminding James of his parents’ love, Spiker and Sponges`s duet “I got you,” and Earthworm`s “Plump and Juicy.” The large screen backdrop made me feel as if I was right there in the peach with the cast members.

The entire crew and cast did an exceptional job bringing this play to life and poured their hearts into everything they did, leaving me so glad I came.

The show continues next weekend. If you’re looking for something entertaining and family friendly, I give James and the Giant Peach two thumbs up, and absolutely recommend you go see it.

Featured image caption: Chase Bowman plays the title role in James And The Giant Peach this weekend at Gettysburg Community Theatre. Tickets may be ordered online in advance. Photo courtesy of Blayne Miller. 

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Holly Weaver, Reporter, was raised by two United States Marine Corps sergeants in West Chester Pennsylvania. She is a wife and a mother to four children. She tries to live by and teach my children that while every day may not be good, there is something good to be found in every day.

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