Every show has its challenges. This one’s happened to be an enormous piece of fruit.
“There’s a giant freaking peach onstage, so that was a process.” said Nathaniel Quinn, director of Fort Collins Children’s Theatre’s upcoming production of, you guessed it, “James and the Giant Peach.” “We as a team had to come together and solve this. … There’s a scene where they talk about how it’s getting bigger, so they wanted to do it in a way that’s theatrical and wanted to have the peach onstage all of the show but not have it seen the whole time.”
Quinn, a Cheyenne resident, drives to Fort Collins every day for rehearsal, so he has some time to think these challenges through. But he noted that if that’s his team’s biggest problem and they already solved it, they’re doing pretty well.
When FCCT approached Quinn to see if he was interested in the show, he was immediately drawn in by the music. The team behind these compositions (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, known together as Pasek and Paul) also wrote the music for “The Greatest Showman,” “La La Land” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” and it’s the type of music that listeners often find themselves bobbing their heads to without realizing it.
“The music is this full orchestra, bombastic, fun music, and so you listen to it and you say ‘oh the music and lyrics are doing all of the work and telling you exactly what every moment needs.’ But even during the ballads, you want to move.”
That lively feel is something Quinn wanted to ensure could be felt throughout all elements of the show. This show is a musical, and in every musical he directs, he wants to make sure he’s giving people a reason to get out of their house and come see a live production. To Quinn, that means providing a show with music that’s not just pretty and a set that’s not just creative. It requires actors who are willing to put the work in to bring this beloved Roald Dahl story to life.
In auditions, Quinn said he was looking and listening for people who were prepared and respond well to live music, and the group that rose to the challenge ended up being majority local (most from Fort Collins and a few from Loveland).
“I think we really lucked out,” he added. “We don’t have anyone who’s not willing to take a risk. A lot of times, you have a cast that are so worried about getting it right that they don’t try bigger things, and I don’t direct that way. … They come to me and ask if they can try things, and I say, ‘Of course, why are you asking?’”
For this show, Quinn said he’s been working with the cast on gaining a new sense of what family means. Especially today, when more and more people are pushing past the confinements of the nuclear family, he said that message is particularly important.
In the beginning of the show there’s a horrible accident, so James is forced to go live with his awful aunts. Quinn said that from there, the show goes on to explore who is really more like family to James, the aunts he despises or the friends he loves.
“There’s this idea that we all have these friends who we say are like a brother – how different is that really from a brother?” he said. “Family is important because it’s who you love and connect to, and that doesn’t always mean who you’re genetically related to, and that’s OK.”
If that theme isn’t enough to convince people the show’s worth attending, he wants to add that this is children’s theater, yes, but it’s for everybody.
“I want to stress again that this is children’s theater for children of all ages. And I say this as an educator – there is a stigma that ‘this isn’t my kids, so I’m not going.’ But this is a full-blown production that celebrates all ages appropriately.”