Children’s Classic Book Hits the Stage with LowellArts Players Youth Theater

James and the Giant Peach remains a timeless classic.  The popular children’s book will be performed on stage at the Lowell Performing Arts Center located at Lowell High School.  LowellArts Players Youth Theater has been working for weeks in preparation for opening night.  The cast will bring characters to life January 18 through January 20.  General admission tickets are $7 and can be purchased online.

Ladybug, Earthworm, Spider, Old Green Grasshopper, and Centipede rehearse their lines (l-r) with James listening in.

The Youth Experience
Aside from the not-so-nice Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, the rest of the main characters are portrayed by kids, many of which call Lowell home.  Youth theater gives kids the opportunity experience being part of a live performance. Some are trying it out for the first time while others have found a love for performing arts and want to be part of another production.

Regardless of the reasons why the kids auditioned and have been rehearsing, they’re all there to have fun and be part of something as a team.  Since mid-November the cast has been gathering to rehearse for a couple of hours four times a week.  It takes dedication and commitment to be involved in theater but the reward is worth the effort.  Brody Smith has performed in LowellArts presentation of the Princess and the Pea and Charlotte’s Web.  The 13-year-old 8th grade student says he enjoys theater because, “I get to be someone I’m not.”  The fun environment is another aspect which draws him to the stage.  Smith plays the Centipede.  And if you see him, make sure you don’t ask about having 100 legs, feet, and shoes.  It’s a touchy subject for his character.  

Lowell’s First Look had the opportunity to watch some of a recent rehearsal, which took place on the second floor of the LowellArts building.  Stage Manager Kim Miller warmed up the group, figuratively and literally, with some stretches and positive, group reinforcement.  Then it was on to some acting exercises.  One task the group was asked to do was to perform a death.  There was inspiration from Judy Hopps in Zootopia to a variety of invented ways to reach that final breath.

Director Teresa Goldner (l) and Stage Manager Kim Miller (r) follow along during rehearsal.

Generations of Theater Involvement
Director Teresa Goldner is the director of the play.  She has been involved with LowellArts Theater for a number of years, mainly as a stage manager.  She has worked with adults and kids in the past but says this of directing the younger crowd, “The joy of working with the kids is watching them grow as they develop their characters and even build friendships with each other.”  Goldner also indicated some of the acting during the play will take place in the audience.

Most of the kids in the cast Goldner is working with for the first time.  However, Brody Smith is a familiar face.  Goldner said she has enjoyed watching Smith grow since their first meeting and has seen him come out of his shell.  He was certainly eager to tell us about his character and involvement in James and the Giant Peach.  

Goldner’s grandparents were involved in LowellArts productions in the early years and her parents have been on and off stage as well.  Goldner’s mom, Laura Leasure, is no stranger to the LowellArts Theater scene and is credited for inspiration in regards to continuing the family tradition of theater involvement.  Creating sets is another important job in a theater production.  Goldner’s husband and parents have been essential in the design and construction of where the cast will perform.  

Jackson Morehouse (l) and Carter Morehouse (r) have a scene together near the beginning of the play.

Cast Comments
Wyatt Duimstra is an 11-year-old student at Lowell Middle School.  He has been part of making videos but this is his first time performing on stage.  He’s having a good experience while having fun.  When asked why he decided to try out for the production he simply stated, “You know, I think I’d be good at that.”  He can be seen playing the role of the Old Green Grasshopper.  And during rehearsal he showed he is pretty good at it.  The Spider is played by Rylee Snyder who also brings theater experience to the cast.  “Because I love acting.” she says of the reason she tried out for the show.  The 4th grade student at Cherry Creek has participated in classes through the Grand Rapids Civic Theater.  

Two students will make their debut in this performance.  Jozelyn Stroud, a 4th grade student at Cherry Creek, took part in the Youth Theater class offered by LowellArts this past summer.  She enjoyed the introduction to theater enough to audition for James and the Giant Peach.  “I like learning new things and it’s really fun.” she says of the experience so far.  She likes the nice, supportive role of her character, the Spider.  The second newcomer to the stage is Gwynneth Kelly who plays the Earthworm.  She is a 6th grade student at Lowell Middle School who had a friend tell her about the audition. “I like the diversity of the different people and characters in the play.” she says.  

Aunt Spiker, James, and Aunt Sponge look up as the giant peach grows.

Carter Morehouse, who plays James, cites this current role as the fifth character on stage which he has portrayed.  He has been part of two plays at Impact Church and two at Lowell Middle School, where he is an 8th grade student.  His reason for trying out for a role?  He enjoys telling stories through acting.  “This is my first play that has a fantasy aspect to it. We really have to use our imaginations to bring these characters to life. I’ve also really enjoyed making memories with my brother and sister who are also part of the cast.” he concludes.  Look for Morehouse’s brother and sister appearing as Elf and Glowworm.

Mark Your Calendar, Buy Tickets
General admission seating can be purchased through the LowellArts information page about the production.  Tickets are $7 each and kids under 2 are free.  January 18, 19, and 20 evening performances begin at 7pm.  An afternoon matinée is also scheduled for 2pm on January 20.  

The Lowell Performing Arts Center at Lowell High School, located at 11700 Vergennes, will be the location for each performance.  All those involved in this production of Rolad Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach are eager to share with an audience how hard work has come together as a fun experience for cast, crew, and those who will see the production.  Break a leg!

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