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Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s “James and the Giant Peach” Shakes It Up

At the July 24 dress rehearsal of Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s (RJJT) “James and the Giant Peach,” 58 cast members and 20 crew members put on a peachy keen musical with director Jennifer Kohler. Based on Roald Dahl’s popular children’s book, the story depicted the adventures of an optimistic orphan named James and the animated human-sized insects he befriended as the group utilized a giant peach as their means of travel.

Providing comedic relief were the cruel and pretentious aunts Spiker (Rylee Weon) and Sponge (Jane Jones). In one amusing scene, Sponge flaunted her so-called sophistication by spraying whipped cream from a can into her mouth. Spiker was the first to deliver the line that would haunt her nephew James during the story: “You can run and you can hide. But remember we’re the only family you’ve got.”

Portraying James with flair was Keith Dart, 14. Dart disagreed with Spiker’s slogan.

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“Family isn’t just about bloodline but it’s about the people who take care of you and the relationships you have,” Dart said. “At first, James feels sad and small because his aunts treat him disrespectfully. When he meets kinder characters, he opens up, feels better about himself and is more comfortable sharing his opinions.”

“All the actors that play the insects that James meets when he goes inside the peach, these actors also play puppeteers in the beginning,” said Kevin Cornelius, recreation supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department. “These insects who are initially puppets grow and are played by the actors who were operating the puppets.”

One such insect was the brotherly Grasshopper, played by Jack Lingscheit, 13.

“We have to use the puppet as if it’s our character,” Lingscheit said. “It was hard using the puppet because I had to bend down. When I have to get changed from my black costume into my grasshopper costume, it can be challenging because there’s a lot of pieces in my costume, such as a bow tie, goggles, a button-up shirt, a vest, a coat and pants.”

Another insect was the nurturing Ladybug, played by Mia Rousseau, 13.

“This is my first main role; it was so fun to play the Ladybug,” Rousseau said. “It was super fun learning how to control the puppets. I had to bend down with the puppets. It was sometimes hard to bend down because I’m used to standing up straight.”

What was special about this summer show was that it had sprung from a junior theatre camp offered by the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department. For six weeks, the young actors attended camp for four-and-a-half hour days to rehearse and prepare for the show. The show ran at the Mission City Center for Performing Arts during the last week of camp from July 24 to July 26.

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