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A giant adventure, some giant performances and one giant peach

May 17, 2018 GMT

La PORTE — “James and the Giant Peach” may be the most beautiful, colorful and creative show Katy Gartland has ever seen at the La Porte Little Theatre, even with her long association to the theatre.

The costumes are vibrant, immaculate and creative, she said, sewn and assembled by Sharon Kienitze and Bonnie Quigley.

The set design is breathtaking, featuring one of the most incredibly impressive props ever designed for the Little Theatre — a 14x12 giant peach constructed by Matt Robinson.

“He gets all the credit for that,” Gartland said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

But the show imparts more than just visual wonder. There is also the performance of a youthful cast filled with inspired energy, telling a story Gartland has envisioned bringing to life for the last four years.

“We have a really great younger vibe going on at the Little Theatre with a lot of young talent. And I just wanted to see (the play) come to life,” she said.

“James and the Giant Peach” concludes the Little Theatre Clubs 93rd season this weekend with the world renown musical adaptation of the beloved Ronald Dahl children’s book.

Directed by Gartland and first-time director Tony Thomas, along with Andrew Berger as musical director, “James and the Giant Peach” tells the story of a young orphan forced to live with his nasty aunts who stumbles into a magical adventure in the shape of, well, a giant peach. James isn’t alone as he finds himself befriending unlikely cohorts in a rag-tag group of insects including a spider, a grasshopper, a ladybug, a centipede and an earthworm.

The musical stars Norah Gartland as James, Holly Welsh and Douglas Campbell — sporting an extravagant blue wig — as the nasty aunts, Mary Watterson as a mysterious narrator and Kasi Jackson, Grace Tarnow, Emma Radke, Brandon Dudley and Anthony Garcia as the insects, who each have a distinct personality.

“This coming weekend, I just want them to have fun,” Gartland said.

The cast and crew performed their first shows last weekend, but have their final shows still yet to come as they hope to go out in bittersweet fashion; sad for the experience to be coming to an end, but determined to make it a show the audience never lets slip from their mind.

“You never know what will happen in live theater,” Gartland said, recalling a performance last weekend where Campbell lost his eye-catching blue wig in the middle of a dance scene.

The crowd roared along in laughter, Gartland said, as Campbell used the comical happenstance to further tickle the audience’s funny bone as he sang and danced his way over to his fallen wig.

While frequent attendants of Little Theatre performances may recognize a few of the mainstays in the cast, Gartland stated there are some new additions as well, putting their talents on display for the first time for La Porte audiences.

“I love doing shows and having new faces,” she said.

Emma Radke of North Judson is one of the debuting cast members. Gartland said Radke “lit up” the stage during her audition.

“She has the most beautiful voice,” Gartland said.

Rake may be new to La Porte’s theatre scene, but she has experience in other areas.

Holly Welsh, however, is a debut talent in a different sense. Welsh plays Spiker, one of James’s nasty aunts, and is a seventh grade social studies teacher at Boston Middle School. Gartland said Welsh’s performance is a return to stage, but one long coming. Welsh hadn’t appeared in a play since high school.

“She’s hilarious and I hope we see more of her,” Gartland said.

The La Porte Little Theatre is located at 218 A St., La Porte. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for students and $15 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the theatre, Roxy Music or Thaddeus C. Gallery in La Porte.

Reservations can also be made by calling (219) 362-5113.

With more than 1,000 volunteer hours making this show possible, Gartland is very proud of what everyone has accomplished and sad to see the show coming to an end. But before they bow for one last time, she hopes both the audience, the crew and — especially — the young cast are left with an impression in their memory that’ll never fade.

“I hope the kids feel a sense of accomplishment of a job well done,” she said.