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Ammon Arts Community Theater to lift spirits with ‘James and the Giant Peach’

Arts & Entertainment

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AMMON — The Ammon Arts Community Theater will debut “James and the Giant Peach” on Aug. 5.

The storybook adaptation is a warm, funny story with music written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, whose previous credits include “The Greatest Showman,” “La La Land” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“There’s a book by Roald Dahl and it’s based on that,” said Alison Rockwood, the play’s director. “There was actually a movie in 1996 by Tim Burton and people always ask me ‘Is it the same as that?’ And the base story is the same, just like the book, but the music is all different from the movie.”

“James and the Giant Peach” tells the story of a young kid who is sent to live with his cruel aunts after the deaths of his parents. James’ aunts treat him like garbage while not providing him things like proper food and bedding which fill a normal child’s needs.

“A magic man comes to (James) and gives him this magic potion to make things better,” Rockwood said. “He accidentally spills the potion and it falls all over the place and makes a peach grow.”

James’ potion also causes some insects to grow to a hugely abnormal size. James meets and befriends the insects and then when the peach rolls down the hill and into the ocean, they all go on an adventure together.

“It’s all about finding family,” Rockwood said. “(Family) doesn’t have to be blood. Family is people who care about you. And believing in yourself. That’s a big theme, too. James learns how to believe in himself when others have pushed him down.”

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Rockwood said “James” was selected because of its potential to buoy community members’ spirits as we emerge from months of COVID-19-related isolation and stress.

“Last year, we chose ‘Seussical’ and it was really fun and upbeat,” she said. “The message was super-positive and empowering and, especially during our COVID time, it ended up being super poignant. We wanted to come off the coattails of that. As our community is coming out of COVID, we wanted to stick with the super-positive, uplifting, energetic, all that kind of stuff with a really positive message.”

This production marks Rockwood’s first time directing a play, presenting her with challenges she hasn’t faced in her years of acting on the stage.

“It’s been a new adventure, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s been a great challenge. We have great members of our community to work with and lots and lots of talent. So, it makes it easy when everybody is ready to get in there and work towards a good goal.”

While wrangling the production together has been a challenge for Rockwood, it’s also presented interesting obstacles for its cast.

“I have to have an English accent,” said Madison Wilson, who portrays Ladybug in the play. “The whole show, all of the actors, have English accents. We took lots of time learning and understanding how to speak differently than we do on a normal basis. It was hard at first but I feel like we’ve got it down really well now.”

Ammon Arts Community Theater’s “James and the Giant Peach” runs on Aug. 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. at Thunder Ridge High School. There is also a matinee performance on Aug. 7 at 1 p.m. Click here to purchase tickets.

Those interested in joining Ammon Arts Community Theater are encouraged to contact the group through their Facebook page.

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