WAIMEA — If you are a fan of the late Roald Dahl, you should check out the upcoming musical from the Waimea Community Theatre, “James and the Giant Peach.”
The nearly three-dozen-member cast has been working tirelessly for the past two months, and will be showing off its work at 7 p.m. today, the beginning of two weekends’ worth of shows in North Hawaii.
“The process of putting this play together has been a big undertaking,” said Rich Givens, director and producer of the musical and president of Waimea Community Theatre. “This is a family musical with a lot of people in it. It has actors from ages 6 and up. There are families involved, and our cast is about 35 people. Our crew swells that to 40 to 50 people. There are a lot of moving parts.”
An aspect of those moving parts is that the cast comes from all walks of life.
“Community theater is fun. You not only have the spectrum of talent, but also the spectrum of age,” said Jenni Bryson, who plays “Spiker,” James’ evil aunt. “The reason that I can do community theater is because my kids can do it with me. I really love the theater, but it takes a lot of time and commitment from everybody. The only way that I can get away with it is because my kids are doing it with me.”
The British-American fantasy written by Dahl centers around James Henry Trotter, a young orphan whose parents were devoured by a rhinoceros, forcing him to live with his domineering aunts, Spiker and Sponge.
With the help of magic, a colossal peach grows on a tree, and Spiker and Sponge exploit the peach as a tourist attraction. Inside the pit of the peach, James befriends a group of human-sized anthropomorphic insects, who cut the stem away when the aunts come looking for James, allowing the peach to roll away to the Atlantic Ocean and eventually New York City.
The show is put on by volunteers who have worked five days a week to bring it to life for local audiences.
“There has been a lot of excitement as we approach opening night,” Givens said. “The process is not linear, it is more exponential. It does not just grow steadily. It looks like it is not growing at all, and then it comes together a lot at the end. What we are doing in these couple of days is getting the actors accustomed to the theater space.”
Getting accustomed to the theater space, however, isn’t an easy task, according to Rick Turnbow, who plays “Ladahlord,” a magician who watches over James and narrates the story.
“It is a mammoth undertaking to do a play,” said Turnbow. “It is three times that to do a musical. To do it in a place that is a community theater means that you will not always have the things that you need when you want them. It means that you have to adapt and pray. Tonight, (Monday) we are at the prayer stage. By Friday, (tonight) we will be at the ‘We got this’ stage.”
The cast is not only getting accustomed to the space, they are also enjoying the character immersion process.
“I love my character,” said Raina Dale, who plays Matron Nurse, a woman who suffers from compassion fatigue and runs Painswick orphanage. “Matron Nurse is so different from me. I am empathetic to a fault. My character is very prim and proper and does not care about James at all. … I am really paying attention to the details that put this character across to the audience. I do not have that much to say, but I have a lot to convey with my body language. I am practicing being that person every moment that I am on that stage.”
Julien Quijano, the actor who portrays the protagonist James, is no stranger to theater. He performed in the play “The Hobbit” and worked backstage for “Dracula,” both of which were at Waimea Community Theatre.
“Playing James has been fantastic,” Quijano said. “This is my first time having a main role in a play. … Putting this musical together has been great, and I would say that I am sad that it is ending. In the end, though, it is fantastic. I cannot wait to actually have people see what we have put together and developed.”
The cast will perform tonight through Sunday at the Parker School Theatre in Waimea. Tonight’s and Saturday’s shows are at 7 p.m. and Sunday show is a matinee, opening at 2 p.m.
Another set of performances will be at the Honokaa People’s Theatre at 7 p.m., Aug. 10, and 2 p.m., Aug. 11.
Tickets are available at the Waikoloa Mailbox, Waimea General Store and Bentley’s Collection. Cost is $20 adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for keiki 12 years and under and $5 for the keiki matinee special, or online at waimeacommunitytheatre.org or at the door.