Florida State Community College of Jacksonville Dramaworks presented a four-day run of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” at the Nathan Wilson Center for the Arts during November 5 – 8, 2015.

Roald Dahl’s name may be well known to your children, as he has written a number of children’s books. Three have been adapted for the stage: “Matilda,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “James and the Giant Peach,” the delightful show we saw at the Wilson Center during a special showing for school children. The plot was fun to follow and with FSCJ’s fantastic sets, special effects, and costumes, it was well received by the large audience of students from various schools in this area.

The story is that of young James, played in a marvelous performance by Joshua Andrews whom we last saw here in recent productions of “Jacques Brel is Alive . . .” and “Moonchilden.” Orphaned James is forced to live with his two loathsome aunts in the English countryside. Auntie Sponge (Sarah Dickinson) and Auntie Spiker (Lucas Buford) make his life miserable, treating him like a slave until he makes friends with several insects, that include Bryan Martins (Old Green Grasshopper), Noah Bennett (Centipede), Savannah Raney (Earthworm), Sara Girard (Ms. Spider), and Riley Shea (Ladybug).

James receives a magic potion from an Old Magician (Drew Frericks), which he spills on a peach tree; the tree responds by growing a giant peach. After a disagreement between James and his guardians, he is banished from the house and told he must sleep outside. He finds a way to enter the peach, which is inhabited by his new friends. They detach the peach from the tree and roll into the ocean, flattening the two aunts in the process. Then a real adventure begins as the group travels inside the peach across an ocean filled with sharks and into the sky. Eventually, with the help of some friendly seagulls, they arrive in New York City. Along the way they face many dangers, including the threat of starvation, but despite many disagreements they learn team work, forge lasting friendships, and create a happy ending.

Members of the large ensemble played a variety of smaller roles and in addition, portrayed sharks swimming in the ocean, animated a threatening octopus, and manipulated long poles high into the sky to simulate seagulls. The energetic ensemble included; Alyssa Moody, Barrett Cutts, Kayla Beadle, Nicole Gibson, Kirk Torres, Danielle Glenn, Nathan Winter, Ilyana Zambrana, and Jason King.

The outstanding set and special effects by Johnny Pettegrew (Production Designer) and Robert Rupp (Scene Shop Supervisor) plus the assistance of students in the Drama Practicum and Technical Lab class, contributed much to the making of such a marvelous theatrical experience. Jay Deen, FSCJ Adjunct Professor of Theatre, added very catchy original music to go with the stunning costumes by The Costume Crew.

“James and the Giant Peach” is Director and Professor of Theatre Ken McCulough’s 42nd show at FSCJ’s South Campus. Over the past 21 years, Ken has brought some of the most interesting plays ever seen in North Florida to a devoted legion of theatre goers and with “James,” he adds another impressive show to his resume.

Kudos to the excellent Production Team that included: Sam Catone, Callie Gaines, Desta Horner (Property Supervisors), Emily Kritzman (Stage Manager), Adam Mayhugh, Zach McKinney (Assistant Stage Managers), and Scott Collins (Sound Design).

It was an enchanting and delightful two hours of theatre, and we appreciated FSCJ taking us along on this remarkable adventure.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.