“James and the Giant Peach:” Semester’s first play rolls on stage

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“Wait—what’s that? Over there. Do you see it?” A giant peach is rolling toward Dixie State University.

The DSU theater department is putting on “James and the Giant Peach” for the first play of the semester.

The play is based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, but Mark Houser, theater coordinator and director for the show, said audience members shouldn’t expect it to be like anything they’ve seen before.

Houser and his design crew have made some out-of-the-box set choices to bring the storybook feeling to the stage. Giant pop-up set pieces, including pieces for the aunt’s house, the peach tree and the giant shark, will make for a portable, yet larger-than-life look of children’s theater, Houser said.

In addition to the pop-up pieces, the cast is excited for the audience to see the 14-foot peach made out of steel.

Plus, Houser has made some interesting casting decisions, especially for Aunt Sponge and James. The role of Aunt Sponge is traditionally played by a woman, but Houser has cast Jacob Beecher, a junior theater education major from LaVerkin, for the part.

“[Jacob] is an amazing, amazing man, and he’ll be cross dressing to play Sponge,” Houser said. “His personality is just fun.”

Houser also cast Danica Christensen, a junior theater major from Blue Springs, Mo., as James. 

Christensen said the role has been challenging but exciting.

“I’m so used to thinking as a girl…So looking at guys and how they walk is completely different from what we do,” Christensen said.

Houser said he made his casting decisions because the actors’ personalities fit the characters so well.

The cast said the most unique part about the show will be the audience participation, which ranges from a narrator perusing the audience, to beach balls being thrown into the audience.

Mark Speener, a senior theater major from Milwaukee, who acts as the narrator, said he wants the audience to know it’s OK to participate in the show.

“It will be a little more audience-interactive instead of just sit-and-watch,” Speener said. “We’ll be attempting to get some of the children on stage at an appropriate point for that final bit.”

“James and the Giant Peach” will be showing in the Eccles Fine Arts Center on the Main Stage Thursday to Saturday and Oct. 1-5 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 435-652-7800, or at the box office in the Eccles Fine Arts Center. Students, faculty and staff can purchase tickets for $1 with their DSU identification card.