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Weekender Main: ‘James and the Giant Peach JR.’ takes the stage

This Friday, ABC Players Jr. will have their opening performance of an adaptation of “James and the Giant Peach JR.” The musical production is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic of the same name.

“‘James and the Giant Peach JR.,’ is a fantastical tale about a young, orphaned child who finds a loving family in the most peculiar way,” ABC Players Jr. said in a press release. “Sent by his mean, conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, James discovers a magic potion which results in a tremendous peach occupied by some not-so-normal characters. From the center of the gigantic fruit, James and the unlikely crew launch a journey of enormous proportions. Together they discover that while we are all born into a family, we then go on to create a family of our own.”

Director of the show, Jodi MacNeal, detailed how the performers, whose ages vary from 5-18, came together, and her goals for the kids’ progress moving forward.

“Some of (the kids) have never been in shows before,” MacNeal said. “Just the fact that they're getting up on stage and they're using their skills – if I don't teach them anything else, (I want to teach them) the ability to get up in front of people and speak and not be nervous.”

Spiker & Sponge Money on that Tree.jpg

The performers for the show come from all over southeast Ohio, MacNeal said.

“Athens, Amesville, Federal Hocking, Logan, we have some that are from Pomeroy, Trimble, so really a wide range,” MacNeal said.

The last major production ABC Players Jr. has done was in 2019, before COVID-19 shut down the country. The production was “Frozen Jr.” MacNeal was fearful that the long break between major productions would make it difficult to find an adequate number of performers; however, that worry was in vain.

“I was a little bit concerned that we wouldn't have enough kids, but we actually have a lot of kids,” MacNeal said. “This is the biggest cast we've ever had.”

MacNeal also served as the musical director for the show. A major concern working with kids can be grasping their attention, which was a worry that MacNeal had to deal with.

“Sometimes you have to tell them things over and over,” MacNeal said. “But they seem to turn it on at the end. Sometimes kids are more resilient than adults.”

Sergio Morales-Blazquez, a junior studying acting, shared his experience working with young kids.

“Well, there were definitely challenges,” Morales-Blazquez said via text message. “A lot of the trouble came with keeping their attention, but it would all always work out in the end.”

The production will be hosted by Stuarts Opera House in Nelsonville, 46 Public Square. The performances will occur at 7:30 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 2), 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 3) and 2 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 4). MacNeal said she encourages everyone to stop by to see the talented young performers in the show, which is sure to be just peachy.

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