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Active weekend at theater
James and the Giant Peach 1.jpg
“James and the Giant Peach Jr.” opens this weekend at Warren Arts. Pictured from left are Fisher Phillips as James, Abigail McGee as grasshopper, and Anna Grace King as ladybug.

“James and the Giant Peach Jr.” is coming to Warren Arts the next two weekends. Performances are on this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. each night. Next weekend’s performances are May 14-15 at 7 p.m. and May 16 at 2 p.m. 

There will be no show this Sunday because that day is Mother’s Day. The cast is composed of local actors ranging in age from 7 to 18. Runtime is one hour.

Chloe White, one of the directors of the musical, says of the show, “It’s about a little boy whose parents have been killed in a tragic accident and he finds himself in the orphanage. He’s given to two of his aunts that he doesn’t even know, and they’re very, very mean to him.”

She adds, “He finds a way to escape this horrible situation and he finds a new family that loves him.” This family comprises a ladybug, grasshopper, earthworm, spider, and centipede. James and the group of insects end up setting out across the Atlantic Ocean on a giant peach.

Fisher Phillips, a third-grader, plays James, and Phillips says of playing the lead, “It is sort of hard but also really fun.” He says of the show’s message, “It’s to say, be happy if things go wrong, and you always have a family even if they’re gone.”

Phillips, who reads at an 11th-grade level, says he enjoyed reading “James and the Giant Peach,” but he was put off by some of the cursing, particularly that emanating from the mouth of centipede

Phillips, who is trying to design his own hovercraft in his spare time, says he has made a lot of friends throughout the months of rehearsals. He says the biggest jokesters in the cast are Abigail McGee and Takota Moore. 

Director White says she knew she had found her James when Phillips showed up to auditions and sang “Rockin’ Robin.” 

“He sang ‘Rockin’ Robin,’ and I won’t forget that because I remember going home and being like, ‘Mom, there was this cutest little boy who sang ‘Rockin’ Robin’ at his audition.’”

The best numbers in the show, by White’s estimation, include “Right Before Your Eyes,” which is fronted by Ladahlord, played by Kendyn Brock. White added that Ladybug, played by Anna Grace King, and grasshopper, played by Abigail McGee, do beautiful with “Everywhere That You Are.” 

“Plump and Juicy,” is performed by earthworm Aaden Long. “That’s his song,” said White. “That’s a showstopper.” 

Shelby Knight, in her portrayal of spider, delivers excellent vocals, a clear and eloquent delivery, and kindness and a sense of serenity. Takota Moore infuses centipede with droll humor and canny comedic timing. 

The show has a cast of 20, including several twins. Catherine and George Myers are one set of twins, and Anabelle and Abigail Graves are another. Furthermore, Takota Moore has a twin who is not in the show, as does Bethany Manerio. As to the prevalence of twins, White states, “I don’t know how that happened. I actually realized that probably a few weeks ago.” 

The set, including a masterfully constructed peach and was built by Renaissance man Gregg Garrison with the help of the cast, crew, and parents.

Cast for the show includes Kendyn Brock, Fisher Phillips, Bethany Maneiro, Vivian Adams, Anna Grace King, Abigail McGee, Aaden Long, Shelby Knight, Takota Moore, Emma Coppinger, Lorelai Riggs, Greyson Hargis, George Myers, Caroline McGee, Mary Myers, Kaylee Nuckols, Hennessee Cope, Anabelle Graves, Abigail Graves, and Catherine Myers.

Directors are Chloe White, Lilianna Stiffler, and Richard Maneiro. Colin Riley and Karigan Smith are stage managers. Music direction is by Kaden Hobbs. Molly Dodd is costume designer. Abigail McGee is light designer, and choreography is by Jana Denning. Chad McGee is general advisor and runs lights.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased by visiting Warren Arts is located at 5482 Manchester Highway in Morrison near Smartt Assembly of God.

White says of audiences, “I think they’ll leave feeling really happy. It’s a fun show. It’s heartwarming, just the family aspect.” 

She continues, “You’ll laugh, you could cry, there’s some really heartwarming songs. But by the end, you’ll just leave happy.”