My Pulp preview of Encore Theatre’s junior production of ‘James and the Giant Peach’

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Encore Theatre’s junior production of “James and the Giant Peach.” (Photo by Michele Anliker Photography)

Perhaps it’s a sign of how trippy a moment we find ourselves in that the work of Roald Dahl seems suddenly, particularly ubiquitous.

For just as a touring production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory continues its run at Detroit’s Fisher Theater, regional productions of the James and the Giant Peach stage musical — with a book by Timothy Allen McDonald, and music and lyrics by U-M grads and Oscar, Tony, and Grammy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul — have been sprouting up everywhere, including at Dexter’s Encore Theatre.

Encore’s junior production, which begins February 28 and runs for eight performances through March 8, features 22 young performers, ranging in age from eight to 18.

“One of the things I love about [the show] is, not just the chosen family aspect of it, but also, James has this ability to be dealt a terrible hand constantly, and yet he always finds a way to make it better, and always finds the good in things that other are quick to overlook and discard,” said Matthew Brennan, the director of Encore’s production. “The insects, for example, these pests people just want out of their house. … [H]e finds potential in them, and that speaks to something really cool about this story.”

In the stage musical, young James awakes in an orphanage after having a nightmare about his parents’ death-by-rhinos at the London Zoo. (Dahl’s stories for children always have a pretty dark, black comedy lining.) James has no one to tell his story to but a ladybug and a grasshopper, but soon, he’s swept away to live with two aunts who consider him to be little more than an unpaid laborer.

After saving an earthworm from a centipede, and spilling magic potion onto a tree, James soon finds a newly grown, enormous peach on the tree, and he and his insect friends end up setting sail on it, crossing the ocean toward New York. READ THE REST HERE

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