Tim Harder as James is given a magical gift from the Old Man (Doug Fairweather) in Asparagus Community Theatre’s presentation of James and the Giant Peach at Armstrong Centennial Auditorium

Delight in this 50-year-old peachy tale

Armstrong's Asparagus Community Theatre brings Roald Dahl's children's fantasy James and the Giant Peach to the stage

Like fellow British author Charles Dickens before him, Roald Dahl had a way of turning poor, young, misaligned youth into everyday heroes.

Best known for his 1964 story, and subsequent film adaptations, about a boy named Charlie who wins a golden ticket to enter the wacky world of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Dahl’s other children’s fantasy, James and the Giant Peach, was actually written three years earlier.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in print this year, the tale of James comes to life on the local stage when Asparagus Community Theatre presents it in Armstrong starting this week.

Made into a musical  film in 1996, which used both live and stop-motion animation, James and the Giant Peach has a deep message, said Paul Kirkwood-Hackett, who is directing the play for Asparagus.

“It’s about a boy going through trauma who comes out well adjusted,” he said. “It speaks to the hero in young people and deals with prejudice. In the book, James doesn’t judge anybody, not his aunts or the insects he encounters.”

For those who have not read the classic novel, the story follows an escaped rhinoceros from the London Zoo who has eaten James’ parents. Orphaned, James is packed off to live with his two really horrible aunts, Sponge and Spiker, until he finds himself inside a giant peach, where he encounters a group of insects. They soon become a family and set off on grand adventures together, overcoming obstacles along the way.

“He has his comeuppance in that he suffers through mistreatment at the beginning, but comes out at the other end. It’s very Dickensian,” said Kirkwood-Hackett. “It also translates well today. Young people will enjoy the story as it is filled with fantasy and adventure.”

The Asparagus design team, led by Alf Bennett, have lots of special effects, costumes and lighting in store. The peach, made by head carpenter Mark Levey, is practically the same size as the stage and is shaped as a horseshoe with four different levels.

“It’s quite an endeavour, but I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” said Kirkwood-Hackett, adding George Young and George Bensmiller have designed the lighting and sound respectively.

With narrator Sue Gairns guiding the audience through the story, the cast is made up of all ages, from young James (Len Wood Middle School student Tim Harder) to the Old Man (played by the not-so-elderly Doug Fairweather) who gives James the magic seeds that become the giant peach.

Camping it up to play the two nasty aunts are longtime Asparagus volunteers/actors Susan Gagnon as Sponge and Joanne Feenstra as Spiker.

And then there’s the insects.

Donning the colourful costumes, and in some cases the many spindly legs,  are  Mandy Penner as Earthworm, Shaleen Toney as Centipede, Jacob Thiessen as Grasshopper, Sarah Holman as Silkworm, Michael Gairns as Spider, Lauren Brown as Ladybug and Clare Thiessen as Glowworm.

Music director Rory White, and open mic host extraordinaire, is also playing his guitar throughout the show.

Asparagus is dedicating its Saturday, Dec. 3 performance to the four young Armstrong residents who have died under tragic circumstances over the last few months.

“We hope this play is uplifting. It’s been a sad couple of months with young people losing their lives. It has really affected us all, so we hope the community comes together for this family-oriented play,” said Kirkwood-Hackett.

James and the Giant Peach runs Wednesday to Saturday, Nov. 30 to Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. at Centennial Auditorium, 3120 Pleasant Valley Rd., Armstrong. Tickets, $15/adult  $12.50 senior/student, $8/child 12 and under, are available at The Guy Next Door, 3450a Okanagan St.  Call 250-546-0950.

 

Just Posted

Plug pulled on Vernon Light Up

Downtown Vernon Association announces it will no longer co-ordinate the annual event

Campaign to collect backpacks for Vernon’s less fortunate extended

Upper Room Mission has extended its Blessings in a Backpack campaign to Dec. 20

London Drugs stuffs stockings for Vernon seniors

More than 400 bags of stocking stuffers were donated by customers at the Vernon retail store

Love comes full circle for senior Armstrong resident

Life served Ken Henley a lot of twists and turns, but love was a constant

‘Miscommunication’ behind Frosty melt in Vernon

Bylaw working with owners to get permits in place for holiday decoration, city says

VIDEO: Feds give update on flying clearance for Santa’s sled

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has this message for the country’s children

MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Three amigos take on Trump

Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron talk U.S. president at NATO meeting

Woman struck, dog killed after collision on Highway 97

Speed is not believed to be a factor and alcohol has been ruled out

Investigators confirm three died in B.C. plane crash

Transport Canada provides information bulletin

Prime Minister sets 2025 timeline for plan to remove fish farms from B.C. waters

Foes heartened by plan to transition aquaculture found in Fisheries minister mandate letter

Canada’s Attorney General looking to larger reforms on doctor-assisted death

The Quebec Superior Court gave Ottawa just six months — until March 2020 — to amend the law

Drug alert for purple fentanyl issued in Kamloops

Interior Health issued an alert for the deadly drug on Friday

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

I’m Just Saying: Our society needs a re-sex education lesson

Jordyn Thomson is a reporter with the Western News

Most Read