FACT presents 'James and the Giant Peach'

VICKI TILLIS/Ledger photo

The cast of Fairfield Area Community Theatre’s “James and the Giant Peach” welcomes the audience with “Right Before Your Eyes” during the prologue.
VICKI TILLIS/Ledger photo The cast of Fairfield Area Community Theatre’s “James and the Giant Peach” welcomes the audience with “Right Before Your Eyes” during the prologue.

Fairfield Area Community Theater is presenting “James and the Giant Peach” as its summer production this year.

The musical is based on Roald Dahl’s book. Dahl is a popular author among children ages 6-10, but his books, and this play, also are fun for people outside that age range.

“James and the Giant Peach” is about James (Xavier Kessel), an orphaned boy who goes to live with his nasty, yet very comical aunts Spiker and Sponge (Meredith Siemsen and Tena Edlin).

James mixes up a magical potion with Ladahlord (Thomas Voorhees). When James spills the magic, resulting in a giant peach growing in his aunts’ tree, his adventure really begins.

James meets five human-sized insects in the peach: the fatherly Grasshopper (Tommy Brower); the proper and nurturing Lady Bug (Erin Epperson;); the helpful Spider (Alma White); the gloomy Earthworm (John Grunwald); and the pessimistic Centipede (Richard Nissen).

As the group bobs its was across the ocean, they learn to work together and be resourceful.

Meanwhile, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, in trouble for taking money in advance and then not producing the peach, flee to New York, where they meet up with James and confront each other.

The cast also includes: Rachel Brower as the Matron Nurse; Tristen Davis as Billy Bobby-Cop and a Hollywood agent; Felicia Strong as Bobby Bobby-Cop and a Hollywood agent;

Miles Siemsen is Willy Wonka and Jasper Murphey and Cassius Bartow are the Oompah Loompahs. (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is one of Dal’s books — and as Ladahlord says, is a completely different story — but the characters make a guest appearance in this play.)

The cast also includes: Jason Deprey, Brian Robbins and Abdulrehman Ismail as the Garden Guild ladies; Madeline Starling, Evie Messer and Kaylee Pringle as reporters.

The chorus members are: Bixie Brower, Soren Clausen, Yvette Clausen, Erin Davis, Jason Deprey, Abdulrehman Ismail, Evie Messer, Patti Murphey, Kaylee Pringle, Liam Robbins, Madeline Starling and Grant Ward.

The orchestra, conducted by musical director Jim Edgeton, is made up of Gary Roth, Alex Roth and Diane Bekel Wood, reeds; Paul Squillo and Fred Hucke, trumpet; Derrick White, trombone; LeAnne Edgeton, piano; Betty Mayer, keyboard; David Owen, guitar; Gerry Runyon, bass; and Eric Henderson, drums.

The production crew includes: Rachel Biggs, stage manager and props; Rachel Myers, choreographer; Joan Salts, Gay Chapman and Janelle Epperson, costumes; Lou Bolster, set design; Sam Matzen and Elijah Parr, stage crew; Blair Grunwald, Tori Hollingsworth, Lacy Vance, Marcia Vasquez, Katie McLain, tech crew; John Grunwald, Blair Grunwald, Tim Lantz, Jim Salts, Joan Salts, set crew.

And overseeing it all is director Laura Smith.

Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Fairfield High School Auditorium.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youth, high school age and younger. Tickets are available in advance at Kim’s Kottage by Missy. Tickets are available at the door, cash or check only. The lobby opens 30 minutes before each show.


• The peach James and his friends travel in is 9 feet in diameter. FACT bought the peach from another group that had put on “James and the Giant Peach.”

• Xavier Kessel, who plays James in “James and the Giant Peach,” also played young Simba in the Fairfield Middle School’s “Lion King Jr.” in March. Not only is he busy with this production, but he also is busy playing ball. As of Monday evening’s review of the play, his team was leading the playoffs and was possibly going on to the championship.

• The cast is made up of people ranging from ages 5 to 70. The youngest just turned 5 a few days ago.

• The play drew cast and crew members from Fairfield elementary, middle and high schools, both students and teachers; Maharishi School; Pekin Community School District; Mt. Pleasant; Fairfield; and even Pakistan: Abdulrehman Ismail, who really wanted to be in the play and has been at every rehearsal, except the one held on his birthday, and has really given it his all.

• Director Laura Smith’s daughter, Alma White, plays Spider.

• Upcoming FACT production: “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” in February. Auditions are set for December.

• And another upcoming FACT production: “Mama Mia” in June 2020. Auditions are set for April.

• For more information about FACT, email Follow FACT on Twitter @fairfieldact and on Instragram at @factcommunitytheatre.