James and the Giant Peach by Upper Dublin High School in Maple Glen, PA
April 18, 2018
Review submitted by Laura Dibble of Jenkintown High School
James and the Giant Peach – a large peach, personified insects, a small boy, and some horrendous aunts. Upper Dublin High School expertly performed Roald Dahl’s classic story and brought the whimsical character of James to life.
Premiering in 2010, the show is based on the well-known book by Roald Dahl of the same name. Written by Justin Paul, Benj Pasek, and Timothy Allen McDonald, it follows a young, orphaned British boy who is forced to live with his cruel aunts. He (somewhat accidentally) casts some magic upon a peach tree on their property, and it grows into a giant peach, which the aunts take advantage of for money until the peach rolls away with James and many friendly insects inside.
The rich characterization and powerful vocal performances carried the beautiful show by Upper Dublin. Everyone was committed to their characters and accents, and the songs sold the audience on their characters.
Bailey Rifkin, who played James, had adorable charm and a voice perfectly suited for her role. She made the audience fall in love with her wonder and curious expression. The narrator of the story, Ladahlord (an anagram for Roald Dahl), utilized a fantastic voice and hilarious expressions, notably in “I Got You” and “Right Before Your Eyes”. Finally, the awful aunts were played by amazing actresses. Spiker (Sam Spirt) and Sponge (Zoe Halperin) were incredibly eccentric but ridiculous. Everything from their costumes to their goofy choreography was designed exactly to their characters.
The Insect Family was a crowd favorite, and each actor was completely devoted to their role. Although there were a few issues with diction, their charisma and depictions were all perfectly lovable. Each had different personalities, but one that stuck out was the Earthworm (Kira Ariyamitr) for her constant awkwardness and fear/blindness. They all charmed the audience in songs like “Floatin’ Along” and “Plump and Juicy”.
The orchestra was incredibly vibrant and talented, but occasionally they were too loud for the actor’s voices. The sets were beautifully designed, and each prop was made with careful attention and craftsmanship.
All in all, James and the Giant Peach was an excellent show put on by Upper Dublin – they filled the audience’s evening with joy and laughter.
Review submitted by Caroline Borio of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School
Upper Dublin High School’s production of James and the Giant Peach was a musical full of stellar performances that developed a story of friendship and family “Right Before Your Eyes.” Complete with zany characters and upbeat music, this was not a show to miss.
With music by the iconic duo, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, James and the Giant Peach is filled with lively music that is sure to have the audience dancing along. Combined with the bizarre Roald Dahl tale penned in 1961, this musical tells the story of an orphaned boy who is sent to live with his cruel aunts. With the help of some magic, James ends up on an adventure involving a giant peach, human-sized insects, and the Atlantic Ocean, discovering the meaning of family along the way.
A larger than life show such as this one requires exceptional amounts of energy from the entire production team. The cast kept up their energy from start to finish and had strong connections and relationships with each other. A surprisingly emotional show, the cast proved they were a family offstage while also providing the audience with the theme of love and family throughout.
The title character of the show, played by Bailey Rifkin, led the quirky group of insects, and her performance was a standout. Through her portrayal of the song “Middle of a Moment,” Rifkin displayed clean vocals that showcased her stunning high belt. She performed effortlessly and illustrated James’ backstory throughout every scene and song. Additionally, Anastasia Weggel, playing the maternal role of Ladybug, had some of the strongest vocals in the show with a sweet vibrato that lent itself perfectly to the role.
James’ obnoxious aunts, Spiker and Sponge, provided both antagonists and comedic relief. Played by Sam Spirt and Zoe Halperin, these characters performed two breathtaking numbers, “Spiker and Sponge,” and “I Got You.” Spirt and Halperin had incredible chemistry and the relationship between the two roles had the audience laughing out loud.
Many unique technical aspects of the show brought the story to life. The one that strikes the audience from the very beginning is the orchestra. With thirty-four student performers in the pit, they executed the score flawlessly. However, one issue was that the pit was often so loud the audience was unable to hear soloists over them, losing a lot of important or funny lines. That being said, props and set were a strong aspect of the show, using posters that showed the location of each scene and utilizing a rotating platform for the giant peach.
Upper Dublin’s James and the Giant Peach was a heartfelt show leaves the audience with important messages and songs that will be stuck in their heads for weeks to come.