‘James and the Giant Peach’ brings magic to the stage


Caitlin Ellingson/Iowa State Daily

The cast of James and the Giant Peach get ready for opening night at their final rehearsal at the Ames City Auditorium on Nov. 6. The lead role of James is played by 4th grader Ryan Henzi, 9, in green. The performances will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 14, and 2 p.m. Nov. 8, 9, 15 and 16 at the Ames City Auditorium on 520 6th Street.

Haley Brase

Tumbling through life, James and the Giant Peach do not bruise easily.

James, played by fourth-grader Ryan Henzi from Ames, is an orphaned child who is forced to live with his malevolent aunts. The foul language and physical abuse from his aunts does not impact him once he realizes he has friends that believe in him.

“It’s easier to believe in yourself if someone believes in you first,” said director Kivan Kirk, senior in performing arts with an emphasis in acting and directing at Iowa State. He believes that is the theme for “James and the Giant Peach.”

“James and the Giant Peach” will perform at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 16 in Ames City Auditorium.

“I’m pretty much involved with a lot of the magic happening,” Henzi said. “I’ve learned about the play but not much about myself except that I’m pretty good at acting.”

James causes the creation of the massive peach that holds a surprise inside by spilling magic beans in his aunt’s garden.

“This [play] is something different; it’s like so much fantasy and magic. The characters are so strong and it adds so much imagination,” said sixth-grader James VanDyk of Ames who plays the earthworm.

The earthworm, as well as the grasshopper, centipede, spider, ladybug and glowworm, become the support system James never thought he would have.

By entering the enormous peach, James befriends the insects and unexpectedly embarks on a new journey with them when the centipede chews through the branch the giant peach is hanging from.

Tumbling down a hill, demolishing anything in its path, James and the insects bounce off each other inside the peach. They reach a peak at the end of the hill and plunge to what they thought would be their death.

Once they realized they had landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean, joyous hugs were shared. Along their journey to New York, sharks, storms and getting along with each other were problematic.

Each insect is outspoken except for the glowworm who mostly sleeps, but the centipede is the most boisterous one of them all.

“My mom made me [try out] because she thought I was too loud and dramatic, and I did not want to,” said eighth-grader Ben Teske of Ames who plays the centipede. “I just loved [my first play], and I wanted to do it again, so I’ve continued to do it and love it ever since.”

Teske is an actor that will tickle the tongue with laughter. Matching his regular personality, his character is energetic and refuses to stop talking, making him impossible to ignore during the performance.

Unlike James’s home life with his aunts, there was a sense of care and love while being in close quarters with each other. No matter how loud the bickering matches or conversations became, the feeling of love warmed the inside of the peach.

Friends can be found where one least expects them. For James, spilling the beans was not a mistake, but a blessing in order to escape his sour home life and enter his sweet one in a giant peach.

Story Theater Company will perform “James and the Giant Peach” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 16 at Ames City Auditorium. Tickets are $7 for children and $10 for adults at the door.