A favorite children's story comes to life this weekend as Calvert High School presents "James and the Giant Peach." The performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the school auditorium, 152 Madison St.
Richard George has adapted Roald Dahl's fantasy for the stage, but the audience must do its part to imagine details that cannot be be recreated beyond the pages of the book.
The story begins on a pleasant note when the narrator (Joseph Boehler) introduces James Trotter (Kory Wise) and his parents John and Henrietta (Ian Warnement and Amanda Traxler). Residents of London, the Trotter family is planning a trip, but then tragedy strikes. John and Henrietta are killed by a stampeding rhinoceros.
Now an orphan, James is sent to live on a hilltop with his abusive aunts.
Aunt Sponge (Monica Bickley) and Aunt Spiker (Meridith Lucius) like to bicker and compete with one another - all in rhyme. They put James to work and give him no time to rest or play. He can only dream about the journey he and his parents might have experienced.
As James dutifully tends his aunts' garden, a mysterious man (Cayden Kapelka) appears and gives James a bag of small, slithery creatures. The man says if James takes care of the gift, "marvelous things" will happen.
The man runs off and James, in his excitement, drops the bag. The creatures burrow into the soil and disappear at the base of an old peach tree that has stopped bearing fruit.
Before long, the women are amazed to spot a peach growing at the top of the tree. The peach grows so large, its weight bends the tree branch.
Even though Sponge wants to make a meal of the fruit, Spiker decides to charge admission for villagers to come and see the giant peach.
James is instructed to clean up after the onlookers.
While working into the night, James discovers a tunnel into the flesh of the peach. He finds a door in the pit, opens it and comes face to face with human-sized creatures resembling the tiny organisms that escaped from the bag.
Ladybird (Kayla Kirschner) introduces herself and her friends. They include Earthworm (Monica Bickley), Green Grasshopper (Amanda Traxler), Spider (Meridith Lucius), Glow Worm (Connor Stocker) and Centipede (Jordan Gase). They welcome James and express sympathy for the mistreatment his aunts have dished out.
A second narrator (Ian Warnement) appears as the story continues. The inhabitants of the peach decide to break the fruit from its branch and set it rolling down the hill to the sea - with James aboard.
An amazing journey begins for the seven friends. They encounter many unusual creatures and face many challenges along the way. They learn to use their individual skills and attributes to work together and solve problems.
Calvert Elementary students appearing in the cast include Annie Klepper, Joel Breidenbach, Jackson Cook and Eddy Willman.
In spite of dark undertones, the story includes much humor, especially in the Earthworm character. Centipede keeps the mood upbeat, and James adds a dose of creativity and reason.
The small cast takes on multiple roles to tell the fanciful tale. Colorful costumes, simple set pieces and appropriate sound effects allow the audience to focus on the characters and their message of collaboration, respect for all creatures and grace under pressure.
Seth Innis is directing the play. The crew includes Cassie Recker, Cheri Breidenbach, Alyssa Kapelka, Haley Kwiat and Kerrigan Kwiat.
The show runs about 80 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for students and seniors. For tickets and information, call (419) 447-3844.