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A peachy keen musical

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Lake Middle School students will be presenting one juicy musical this weekend.

The school's spring musical, "James and the Giant Peach," will open at 7 p.m. Thursday in the school's cafetorium.

"Who doesn't love the classic story of 'James and the Giant Peach?'" social studies teacher and play director Francine Verschaetse said. "The kids have all been exposed to this, they've read the book, they've seen the movie, and now they can see it come to life in a theatrical way."

The play will run April 14-16.

"James and the Giant Peach," based on the book by Roald Dahl, tells the story of James, who is sent by his aunts to chop down their old fruit tree.

But what James discovers is a magic potion which results in a tremendous peach and suddenly James finds himself in the center of the gigantic peach among human-sized insects.

"There are a bunch of beautiful, zany characters," Verschaetse said.

But after it falls from the tree and rolls into the ocean, the group faces hunger, sharks and plenty of disagreements. Thanks to James' quick wit and creative thinking, the residents learn to live and work together as a family.

"It's a difficult story to end theatrically," Verschaetse said. "It's hard to be creative with such a weird ending of a story."

A new director

Verschaetse is a first-time director at LMS, but she is no stranger to directing plays. She directed the East Ridge High School one-act play.

Earlier this year LMS found itself without a director for its spring musical when longtime director Tami Provencher was not available.

"This one came out of necessity," Verschaetse said. "They needed somebody, they knew I was finishing the one-act and I said, 'Of course I'd do it, I want to work with these kids because I see them every day.'

"I literally just had to pick up the book, read it and come up with a vision and plan as fast as I could."

Verschaetse said making the switch from East Ridge to LMS has been a great experience because not only is she trading in William Shakespeare for Roald Dahl, but she gets to work with a younger age group.

"It's refreshing," she said, "and this is the training ground for the students I'll get at the high school."

Bugging out

Verschaetse said she and the students have had to get creative with "James and the GIant Peach," especially in terms of costumes and sets.

"There's definitely some big shoes to fill," she said, "but we're making it our own, it's actually more of the students' story than mine."

To help tell the story, in addition to costumes, the students created puppets of the main insect characters.

"It's fun helping them understand that the puppet is an extension of them," Verschaetse said. "It's so insane that someone so young can tap into whatever character they have."

Students have really taken ownership of the show, Verschaetse said, since not only did they create the puppets themselves, but they have also helped with sets, choreography and directing.

"It's really their show," she said.

Verschaetse said she's excited to see the students bring "James and the GIant Peach to life."

"I love when we finally put the show on and stepping back and watching the students do everything," she said.

Lake Middle School's production of "James and the GIant Peach" will have performances at 7 p.m. April 14-16. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and children age 5 and younger get in free.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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