Lees-McRae Theatre Arts welcomes generation of young thespians to campus with children’s theatre production of “James and the Giant Peach”

The upcoming Lees-McRae Theatre Arts production “James and the Giant Peach” is full of magic, whimsy, and fun, both for the audience and for the team of faculty and students working hard to bring this show together. While audience members prepare to set sail on an adventure with James and his life-sized bug friends, the team behind the curtain has been on an adventure of their own over the last couple of months, diving headfirst into their first foray into children’s theatre as a department.

Based on the beloved children’s book by Roald Dahl, “James and the Giant Peach” is a tale of friendship, found family, and discovering your place in the world. These valuable lessons make it a great choice for the department’s first production aimed specifically at young audiences. The target audience of children has influenced each part of the production process and has encouraged the cast and crew to take a new approach regarding costuming, stage and prop design, and performances.

Here the stage itself becomes one giant storybook, where characters and prop pieces leap off the page and into lively color. Not only will children in the audience be wowed by the way the story comes to life, but they will also identify with the character of James, a child himself, placed in the center of the action.

This production will be a great experience for the audience, but it has also been a valuable learning opportunity for the Lees-McRae students on the cast and crew. The process of tailoring and marketing the show to a younger audience requires a different skillset than the typical adult-targeted shows that the department puts on. One of the most important steps that the production team has taken to ensure the success of the show is going on meet and greets to local elementary schools and inviting cohorts of students to attend a special matinee performance of the show just for kids.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a performance of anything in my life than for 500 kids to be in Hayes while we do ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ They’re going to be the best audience,” senior Musical Theatre major JoBeth Hilton, who is playing Ladybug, said. “We could be their first exposure to theatre, and that is a huge responsibility, but also a fantastic opportunity. That exposure to theatre is so important.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 15 a group of Lees-McRae Theatre Arts students, including Hilton and other principal actors in the production, went on a visit to Banner Elk Elementary to promote the show, and give the students there a sneak peek into James’ world before they see it for themselves. In addition to students from Banner Elk Elementary, students from five other local schools will attend the exclusive matinee performance on Friday, Feb. 24.

While this performance is designed as a way for children to experience theatre in an environment of their peers, other showings of “James and the Giant Peach” will be open to the public. Evening performances will be held on Thursday, Feb. 23 and Friday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m., and matinee performances will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets are free for Lees-McRae students, staff, and faculty, $15 per person for adults, and $10 per person for children and students from other institutions.

Get a behind the scenes look at costume design for “James and the Giant Peach”

Purchase tickets for “James and the Giant Peach”
Photo courtesy of Banner Elk Elementary
By Maya JarrellFebruary 20, 2023
AcademicsCommunityCampus Life