Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fruitful Escapism - James and the Giant Peach - Musical Review

James and the Giant Peach - Young People's Theatre at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Book by Timothy Allen McDonald, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Directed by Sue Miner
Runs until Jan. 4th 2015

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are one of the newest, and youngest musical writing teams to have emerged in recent years, with their enjoyable musical adaptations of A Christmas Story and the excellent Dogfight, Amidst their recent emergence was their adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, now making it’s Toronto premiere at Young People’s Theatre in a enjoyable and beautifully designed production.          


James and the Giant Peach is another promising showcase for Pasek and Paul’s tuneful songwriting and fit well into the Roald Dahl universe. When a newly orphaned James who is forced to live with his horrible aunts, a magical mishap makes a dying peach tree grow the most gigantic peach, filled with human sized bugs. The bugs, in the giant peach, take James on a giant adventure across the Atlantic that ends atop the Empire State Building in New York City. It’s a strange and exuberant tale full of typical Dahl’s twisted viewpoints, but the pacing in the set up seems to stall the adventures to come, leaving the actual portion with James, and the giant peach, feel slightly rushed.

While it’s important to set up James escaping from his horrible aunts, (played by Nicole Robert and Karen Wood who are deliciously awful much to our delight), the show is at its most joyous when James finally gets to interact with his new bug friends, perhaps because it gives the wonderful ensemble a chance to sing Pasek and Paul’s songs.


With the adorable Lana Carillo as Ladybug, Stewart Adam McKensy as Grasshopper, Saccha Dennis as Spider, Jacob MacInnis as Earthworm, Dale Miller as Centipede, and a buoyant Alessandro Constantini as James, YPT has yet again assembled a talented roster for its annual holiday season musical which is proof again that our musical theatre talent is underused in our city.

The other character in the play, the Giant Peach, gets a glorious design by Yannik Larivée in what may be the most beautiful and clever production design at YPT yet (and I adored the sets for their Cinderella, A Year with Frog and Toad, Seussical amongst others) with costumes (and puppets) to match the setting, all by Robin Fisher.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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