Just peachy. Delicious eye candy. Juicy, even.
The Rose Theater once again works its visual magic in telling the classic story of “James and the Giant Peach,” based on the Roald Dahl children's book.
David Wood wrote the stage adaptation, and Omaha composer Satid Kippenberger has set some rhyming portions of the script to dreamy-ballad melodies, and they're both just fine.
But what the kids from Liberty Elementary School got into at a Thursday preview was the fantastical story, and all the great visual support it got from scenic designer Erik Diaz, lighting designer Craig Moxon, costume designer Sherri Geerdes and props master Ronald L. Wells Jr.
Wells created dozens of rod puppets, operated by a Greek-chorus trio of dancers (Emily Boman, Hope Clarke, Kate Morgan) and narrator Samantha Shatley. The puppets stood in for many of the piece's villains.
That includes a giant octopus that almost devours one of the story's heroes when he falls into the Atlantic, and several sharks that circle the peach as it floats in the ocean. Just the lighting gels simulating the underwater backdrop drew appreciative oohs and aahs, but the shark and octopus action took it to another level.
The giant peach gets at least five different incarnations, including one that inflates as it grows on the tree and another that's tossed from hand to hand and blown on its way to a soft landing, thanks to a little audience participation.
There's a giant peach created merely by lighting gels on a painted backdrop. Another, over 6 feet tall, stands in the yard of James' horrible aunts before it begins its journey.
Finally, a gigantic set piece representing about a quarter of the peach features the fuzzy exterior on one side. On the other, a hollow inside provides a haven for the friends James makes on his mind-blowing journey.
That's where Geerdes' whimsical work especially shines. James' pals in the peach are Ladybug (Louisa Foster), Miss Spider (Kristin Kluver), Grasshopper (Walter Shatley), Centipede (Michael Miller) and Earthworm (Wai Yim).
My favorite costume was the centipede's, which featured a lot of brown shoes, while the kids' favorite peach creature was definitely Earthworm, thanks to Yim's funny way of delivering a line.
Eric L. Harris got lots of love as James, who learns that being useful when helping one another is a very good thing.
Three other fun characters: Yim as the old man who delivers the magical potion to James, causing the barren peach tree to bear fruit; and Foster and Kluver as James' cruel Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. Kluver, in particular, gave Spiker a trademark (and funny) way of getting around.
Director Susann Suprenant and crew have done a bang-up job of bringing this children's classic to life. It should be fun for kids in single digits, even some tweens, and the parents and grandparents who take them.
Contact the writer: