Review by Reeya Dighe, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
"James and the Giant Peach," premiering in 2010 and featuring music composed by Pasek and Paul, follows the tale of the young orphan James Henry Trotter as his life is turned upside down when he discovers a magic growth elixir and watches as the peach hanging on the tree in his front yard grows to a fantastical size. He soon befriends the insects that grew along with the peach, and they set off to sail away from England and his horrid aunts, eventually winding up in New York City. James finds a family in the former insects and lives a long life free of his abusive aunts. Larry A. Ryle High School tackled this piece with creativity and energy. Through ingenuitive technical designs and larger-than-life performances, the cast and crew delivered a lighthearted and entertaining production.
Wade Yates, in the role of Grasshopper, carried the role with well-timed humor and a strong stage presence. His characterization of the role, with quirky mannerisms and a smarmy demeanor, provided an effective foil to the innocence and naivete of James's character. Opposite Yates, Elliet Malatesta, in the role of Ladybug, filled the space with her delicate, yet powerful voice, strong stage presence, and well-executed choreography. All the insects maintained superb energy throughout their dynamic performances. In the role of the Earthworm, Joshua Turner brought a somewhat farcical sense of humor to the production. In numbers such as "Plump and Juicy" Turner's comically anxious demeanor, coupled with his outrageous hot pink costume, dominated the stage.
Anchored by strong lead performers and an equally energetic supporting ensemble, Larry A. Ryle High School's production was a creative and energetic take on a childhood classic. Through incredibly powerful performers, effective scenery, and unparalleled energy, the cast and crew truly transformed the stage "right before your eyes".
Review by Megan Hirka, School for Creative & Performing Arts Cappies Critic Team
Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach" tells the thrilling tale of a young James Trotter and a peculiar peach. This classic story that many know and love was delivered quite nicely by the cast and crew at Ryle High School.
The story begins when James, a young orphan boy, is forced to move in with his aunts, Spiker and Sponge. After only a few days into his stay with the cruel women, something quite out of the ordinary occurs atop a peach tree. One of the peaches grows to be larger than life. James finds himself on a riveting journey upon entering the peach and joining a crew of life-sized insects. From sailing across the ocean to flying high above it, Ryle High School brought it all to life.
The show's cast gave a lovely performance filled with high energy and passion. The ensemble was lively and gave an enthusiastic execution. The narrator, Ladahlord, was marvelously portrayed by Averie Morris, as was the character Sponge, who was played by Grace Donahue. The male roles that stood out were those of Earthworm and Grasshopper, portrayed by Joshua Turner and Wade Yates respectively. These four performers gave an extraordinary performance that truly made them each shine on stage.
"James and the Giant Peach" is not only a difficult show to pull off performance-wise, but also tech-wise. Despite the difficulties the tech team had to overcome, they did a phenomenal job. The stage management team of Jack Archie, Sophia Hansen, and Wyatt Stephens was outstanding; each cue was spot-on, and the hard work put in most definitely could be seen. Kelly Oberst, who headed makeup, did a great job in capturing elements of each character that could be displayed through their makeup.
Overall, the cast and crew of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach at Ryle High School put on a magnificent show that truly captured the brilliance of this post-modern fairytale.
Review by Piper Harrell, Miami Valley Christian Academy Cappies Critic team
What do you get when you combine evil aunts, a mysterious peach, and ginormous talking bugs? Larry A. Ryle High School's production of "James and the Giant Peach !" Originally a children's story by famous author Roald Dahl, "James and the Giant Peach" was later adapted into a musical by Timothy Allen McDonald, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul .
After being cast out of an orphanage to live with his evil aunts, Spiker and Sponge, James Henry Trotter thought that all might be lost. But wait! There was hope in the form of a magical person called Lahdalord . After James received a gift from this strange person, the peach in his aunts' yard began to grow… and grow... and grow! His aunts wanted to make money off of the now giant peach, but James had other ideas, escaping his aunts by hiding inside the peach. After meeting the talking bugs living inside, he set off on a larger-than-life adventure.
Ryle's production of "James and the Giant Peach" clocked in at about two hours. In two short acts, the cast and crew brought this whimsical story to life.
Averie Morris delighted as Ladahlord . With jazzy dancing and adroit vocals, Morris captured the whimsy and humor of magical narrator Ladahlord . She and talented middle-schooler Parker Roland (James Trotter ) especially entertained when paired together for a dance number in the song "Shake it Up ."
Grace Donahue's Sponge and Ava Cirksena's Spiker were delightfully evil as Peter's wicked aunts, bringing believability to the characters through mocking laughter and sardonic sneers. Although occasionally in fast-paced scenes, some actors' lines were hard to understand, each line was delivered with intent. The cast's energy and enjoyment could be felt throughout the show, especially in its final heartwarming number, "Welcome Home ." Another highlight was the unforgettable Earthworm (Joshua Turner ) who belted an anthem of self-love in the song "Plump and Juicy" while dressed in an iconic form-fitting pink bodysuit.
Andi Scott's creative makeup was a favorite. Her bold color choices, reminiscent of festival makeup, made the insects stand out onstage. Another creative element was the simple but effective rhinoceros design—shiny silver cloth draped over a frame and carried by actors. Stage crew were extremely on top of things, maneuvering immense set pieces in short scene changes, the shortest of which was under ten seconds.
"James and the Giant Peach" was a demanding show, but the cast and crew met the challenge admirably and energetically. Their enjoyment and enthusiasm for the story was tangible, and together, they created an entertaining, memorable, and whimsical show.
Excerpts from Top Reviews
“Ladahlord, played by Averie Morris, was energetic and captivating, delivering her lines with passion and lightheartedness, and bringing light with her whenever onstage. The five insects, Ladybug, Spider, Centipede, Grasshopper, and Earthworm played by Elliet Malatesta, Camryn Smith, Nathan Levine, Wade Yates, and Joshua Turner, respectively, were fantastically presented and admired by all.”
-Zach Standley, Randall K. Cooper High School
“The impressive set pieces, props, and costumes established the fantastical settings and locations of the show such as a giant peach floating on the ocean and the top of the Empire State Building. The creative use of a balloon hooked to a hidden hose expertly showcased the peach as it grew onstage. The crew's swift scene changes were doubly impressive when considering the grandness of the peach set, and the lighting and sound elements went off without a hitch.” -Mary Defoor, School for Creative & Performing Arts
“Averie Morris, who played the narrator Ladahlord, always brought an incredibly strong energy and belt with her on stage! All of the insects used the lessons of the show in the building of their characters by clearly showing the fundamentals of friendship and supporting each other on stage.”
-Lily Deye, School for Creative & Performing Arts
“Technical features of the production were extremely complex, requiring careful thought and consideration. In order to create the illusion of the peach growing, a balloon was connected to an air pump and a hose. The shiny appearance of the rhinoceros, created by Emma Jasper, was an incredible feat and played into the idea of magical realism.”
-Juli Russ, Highlands High School
“Averie Morris, who played Ladahlord, had a captivating presence that lasted throughout the whole performance. She narrated the story with a razzle-dazzle flare, showing high dedication to such an outgoing role. Parker Roland, who played James Trotter, intricately portrayed the character development of James with his strong facial expressions and lucid movements.”
-Kalena Jackson, Miami Valley Christian Academy
“Before the living insects appeared, they were first portrayed through puppets. As props designers, Samantha Karlosky and Christina Caterino created them from scratch. They had different approaches to making each puppet in order to highlight the contrast between each insect. Each puppet was crafted with extreme precision in order to make them look as similar to the life-sized ones as possible.”
-Tamara Sanow, Highlands High School
“Joshua Turner was another captivating performer. He delivered his lines with precise timing which made him incredibly funny. He played Earthwormwhose costume consisted of layers upon layers of earth-toned clothes which all but a pink bodysuit were removed on stage during the hilarious number "Plump and Juicy". This wholesome and sweet character was played to perfection.”
-Emilee Taylor, Colerain High School
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.