Nancy Ekholm’s 1961 cover art.

Nancy Ekholm’s 1961 cover art.

By Michael Aushenker
It’s time to revisit Earthworm, Miss Spider, Ladybug, the Old Green Grasshopper and Glowworm.
Just in time for Halloween weekend, Creating Arts Company presents the Roald Dahl children’s literature favorite “James and the Giant Peach.”
In Dahl’s odyssey, young James — raised by his mean, crooked aunts Spiker and Sponge after his parents were devoured by an escaped zoo rhinoceros  — escapes his real-world problems with a cast of insect and arachnid critters after he accidentally drops a magic potion on a peach tree, causing it and its inhabitants to mutate.
The 1961 first edition of Dahl’s book featured memorable illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert that evoked E.H. Shepard’s refined illustrations for A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.
An early work preceding Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by three years and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by nearly a decade, “James and the Giant Peach” notably foreshadowed “Charlie” with allusions to Snozzwangers and Vermicious Knids from Loompahland. The titular, rather large fruit also rolls by “a famous chocolate factory.”
During his lifetime, Dahl refused to let Hollywood adapt “James.” Later, Disney won over widow Liccy and a stop-motion animation and live-action hybrid by the same creative team behind Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” reached movie screens in 1996.
The Creating Arts Company version draws directly from Dahl’s book. The troupe tells their story without puppets but with audience interaction, visual projections and background music, said Creating Arts Company founder Shannon Sukoty.
“James and the Giant Peach” shows from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday, with the schedule repeating Nov. 9 and 10, at Promenade Playhouse, 1404 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica. Call (310) 804.0223 or visit creatingarts.org.

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