Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl's fantastical tale of a boy, his insect friends and their amazing journey across the ocean on a giant piece of fruit.
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

Full Synopsis

Act One

As the overture ends, the curtain opens on a stage, empty except for a single ghost light. Ladahlord, a strange man, enters and invites the audience to come with him and watch a bizarre, true story unfold. He foretells the adventure they are about to witness ("Right before Your Eyes").

The scene transitions to the Painswick Orphanage in London, England, where young James goes to bed, placing a scarf and a pair of glasses under his pillow. These are the last pieces he has of his parents, who were tragically killed by an escaped rhinoceros. As he sleeps, James relives the tragedy in his dreams. He wakes and holds the scarf and glasses tight. A ladybug and a grasshopper enter (both puppets); James calls to them, promising he will not hurt them. James urges them to leave, since this is no place for them; he, on the other hand, has no choice but to stay... he has nowhere else to go. He wishes he could fly off with the ladybug and grasshopper to somewhere warm and welcoming, where he belongs ("On Your Way Home").

The Matron Nurse enters and tells James that he's leaving the orphanage. It turns out that he has two aunts living in Dover – where James is originally from – who are going to take him in. The Matron Nurse tells James that he must do whatever his aunties tell him to do, as he cannot come back to the orphanage.

In Dover, we find James' aunties, Spiker and Sponge, on the boardwalk, picking pockets. They extol the virtues of their chosen, criminal profession. They get away with their activities by making charitable donations to the police. A passing Bobby-Cop gives them a telegram, which explains that James is coming to live with them. At first, they are not sure what do with a child, but then they realize that they can make James their slave, and they revel in their latest acquisition ("Property of Spiker and Sponge").

Spiker and Sponge pick James up at the train station. They assure the Matron Nurse that they will take good care of him, but as soon as she is gone, they show him their true colors. They take him home, which happens to be a decrepit cottage with an overgrown garden... and James will be living in the cellar. Spiker and Sponge then take away James' last vestiges of his parents, the scarf and glasses, but James grabs them back. His aunts tell him that the only reason they have taken him in is so that he can be their slave... and they then promptly command him to cut down an old peach tree in the yard. Just then, a spider appears. Spiker kills it, and Sponge eats it. James sees the seashore and his old friends from a distance and asks if they can go to the beach. Spiker and Sponge think that is a lovely idea – but they go to the seashore without James! Ladahlord reminds the audience that a magic spell is coming ("Right before Your Eyes – Reprise 2").

James is about to cut down the peach tree – despite feeling sorry for doing so – when an earthworm and a centipede (also puppets) appear. The centipede chases the earthworm, but James intervenes. The centipede is frightened of James. As James chases the centipede off, he crashes into Ladahlord, who gives James a magic book with recipes for potions in it. Ladahlord promises that, if James picks a spell from the book and devours the potion, fabulous, unbelievable things will happen ("Shake It Up").

James chooses slithering crocodile tongues as his spell. Ladahlord helps him with the spell and then tells him he must mix the crocodile tongues with water and drink them up. He warns James that whomever meets the crocodile tongues first will get the magic. James runs to the well to get the water, but he trips and spills the contents of the bag. The crocodile tongues chase after a grasshopper, a spider, a ladybug and a centipede.

Spiker and Sponge return to find James in the garden and, to their surprise, they notice the old peach tree is growing... a peach, something that has not happened for years. The peach grows bigger and bigger. Sponge wants to eat it, but Spiker won't let her... she knows that people will pay money to see such a phenomenon. Soon, reporters, Hollywood agents and members of the garden guild all show up to see the magic peach. Spiker and Sponge see that they are going to be gazillionaires – all for doing nothing! ("There's Money on That Tree"). Spiker and Sponge sign a variety of contracts, getting sizeable cash advances for future use of the peach.

James asks if they can use all of the money to move to the seashore or take a trip. Spiker and Sponge make it clear that they don't intend to include James in their wealth, but he points out that it was he who made the peach grow. His aunts call him a liar, stealing and destroying the last relics of his parents, finally, telling him that he must sleep outside and taunting him that he cannot run away, because he has nowhere else to go. James realizes that he is stuck and that the time has come for him to make a decision. At that moment, he notices a door in the peach and, leaving both his past and present behind, he enters the peach ("Middle of a Moment").

Inside the peach, James encounters the insects that ate the crocodile tongues. They are now fully-grown, human-sized creatures that can talk. Though Centipede is wary of humans – including James – Spider, Ladybug, Grasshopper and Earthworm are more accepting. Suddenly, the peach lurches forward. Its stem snaps from the tree, and it begins rolling away, running over Spiker and Sponge. It goes across fields, through the village and past a famous chocolate factory ("Right Before Your Eyes – Reprise 3").

James emerges from the top of the peach and realizes that they are floating on the ocean. Although it's not clear where they are heading (Ladybug assumes it's toward France), Grasshopper encourages everyone to enjoy the adventure ("Floatin' Along"). Centipede and Earthworm are less certain; they worry that the peach is not seaworthy and that they have no food and water. Ladybug uses an extra pair of her bloomers to create a sail for the peach, and the group is on its way.

Act Two

Many days later, the journey has become more arduous. The bloomer sail is ripped, and James and the insect crew are hungry, thirsty and grumpy. With no landmarks in sight, they begin to discuss what they are going to eat. Centipede suggests that they eat James, but Spider rejects the idea. James says softly that he has an idea, but doesn't believe that anyone will want to hear his plan. Spider reassures him, so he suggests that they eat the peach, which will give them all the food and water they need. As they eat, Grasshopper fiddles a tune for them. James learns more about his insect companions, discovering facts about them that he never knew... for example, that Grasshopper's ears are on his tummy. Spider explains to James that the world is full of all kinds of strange and unfamiliar things, and they encourage him to explore the world ("Have You Even Begun to Wonder?")

Back in Spiker and Sponge's garden, James' aunts recover from having been run over by the peach. They realize that, without the peach, they cannot make good on the contracts they signed and will be in big trouble since they already took the advance money. They hear police sirens and helicopters overhead and know that they better take the money and run ("A Getaway for Spiker and Sponge").

On the peach, James has another bad dream. He and the insects begin telling stories about Spiker and Sponge, and James finds out just how dastardly the pair really are. Not only did they kill and eat Spider's fiance, they killed Centipede's whole family – the best shoemakers in the land, until Spiker and Sponge fumigated them. James concludes that Spiker and Sponge were truly terrible, but Centipede disagrees: all humans are like that... including James! Ladybug asks James about his parents, and he tells his new friends that his parents are gone. Ladybug disagrees: James' parents are always with him ("Everywhere That You Are").

Ladahlord enters, disguised as a ship's porter ("Right Before Your Eyes – Reprise 4"). He serves drinks to Spiker and Sponge, who are traveling first class to New York City aboard a cruise ship. Spiker and Sponge have just enough money to get to New York and set up their old routine of picking pockets on the boardwalk at Coney Island. They lament having lost the peach when they were so close to having a fortune but, despite having lost nearly everything, they still have each other ("I Got You").

Suddenly, from the deck of the ship, Spiker and Sponge spot the peach floating in the ocean, and they insist that the ship "follow that peach!" On the peach, Centipede is feeling a bit seasick. He throws up off the side of the peach, and his vomit attracts a hoard of sharks. The sharks begin eating the peach, and James and the insect crew are in real danger. The vomit has also attracted a pack of seagulls overhead. James has another great idea: using Spider's web as rope, they will attach themselves to the seagulls and fly away. But there is just one problem: how will they get the seagulls to fly close enough to them so that they can attach the rope? James has another idea. He convinces the reluctant Earthworm to act as bait, promising that he will not get hurt. Earthworm is not pleased with his job, but he calls to the seagulls. As James' plan begins to work, Earthworm becomes more confident in his role ("Plump and Juicy"). Soon, the peach is flying ("Right Before Your Eyes – Reprise 5").

Earthworm is thrilled with the results of their latest escapade, but Centipede is still convinced that James will turn on them. As he climbs to the top of the peach and rails against James, he suddenly slips and falls into the water. James goes in to rescue him as the other bugs wait impatiently to see if they will ever see either of them again. At last, James and Centipede reappear. Centipede no longer knows what to think of James; how can he think all humans are the same when this human risked his life to save him?

At that moment, they see the top of the Empire State Building. They realize that they've made it to New York City! At first, they think they are safe, but then they hear sirens and realize that Spiker and Sponge are on the ground with the police, trying to bring the peach down. An airplane approaching JFK airport flies through the silk threads attaching the peach to the seagulls, and the peach falls from the sky, landing on the spire of the Empire State Building, where it gets stuck ("Right Before Your Eyes – Reprise 6").

Spiker and Sponge run to James. Outwardly, they pretend to be happy to see him and relieved that he is okay but secretly, they tell him how they will make him their slave again... after they fumigate the bugs, of course. James stands up to them, telling them that they will not hurt his family. At that moment, there is an odd rumbling and the peach falls to the ground, crushing Spiker and Sponge. James asks if it is wrong that he does not feel sad. The insects reassure him that it is okay for him to feel relieved. Centipede says goodbye and begins to leave when James stops him. James tells him that he should stay here with them, rather than leaving and being on his own ("On Your Way Home – Reprise"); together, they are a family, after all. And, alhough they are a peculiar family, they go on to do incredible things: Centipede becomes a shoe designer, Spider designs bridges with her web and Earthworm forms an activist organization – BAIT: Bugs Against Insensitive Terminology. Ladybug and Grasshopper marry and have kids of their own, but they always think of James as their firstborn son. James goes from being the loneliest boy to having a giant, loving family... all living together in the peach pit ("Welcome Home"). The cast reminds the audience that this was a true story, and it happened right in front of them ("Right Before Your Eyes – Finale").



Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown


A strange, magical storyteller. Often inserts himself into the story, in disguise, to help push the action forward.

Gender: male
Age: 25 to 55
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: Bb2

A lonely young boy who lacks confidence. Having lost both his parents in a freak accident, he feels he belongs nowhere in the world. However, when given the right encouragement he becomes resourceful and innovative. A good friend.

Gender: male
Age: 7 to 15
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G3

James' mean aunt. A thief and a scoundrel. Shrewd and opportunistic. Very tall and thin.

Gender: female
Age: 30 to 60
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: F#3

James' other mean aunt. Also a thief and a scoundrel, but not nearly as bright as her sister. Very corpulent, she often has her mind on food.

Gender: female
Age: 30 to 60
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: F#3

A normal spider who has become human-sized after eating a crocodile tongue. Her husband was killed and eaten by Spiker and Sponge. She is warm and friendly to James. This actor also plays Woman with Purse and Reporter 1.

Gender: female
Age: 20 to 40
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Green Grasshopper

A wizened grasshopper who has become human-sized after eating a crocodile tongue. An excellent musician. Has his eye on Ladybug. This actor also plays Man with Wallet and Garden Guild.

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 40
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: C3

An ornery centipede who becomes human-sized after eating a crocodile tongue. Hates humans, in part because Spiker and Sponge fumigated his family. Prickly and rude, everyone thinks he is a pest. This actor also plays Buzz, the Hollywood agent.

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 40
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: C3

A motherly ladybug who has become human-sized after eating a crocodile tongue. Respectable and classy, she has a warm, caring heart. Has her eye on Grasshopper. This actor also plays Matron Nurse and Reporter.

Gender: female
Age: 30 to 60
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3

An earthworm who has become human-sized after eating a crocodile tongue. A bit of a scaredy-cat. He is neurotic and worried about everything, but is very friendly and brave when called upon. This actor also plays Bobby Cop and Bitzi Botana.

Gender: male
Age: 25 to 50
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: C2

Crowd, Karl Kreatour, Reporters, Vagrants, Garden Guild, Bobby-Cops, Willy Wonka, Oompa Loompas, Hollywood Agents, Seaugulls, New Yorkers.

Gender: any
Full Song List
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Overture
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Right Before Your Eyes
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: On Your Way Home
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Shake It Up
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: There's Money On That Tree
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Middle Of A Moment
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Floatin' Along
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Entr acte
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Have You Even Begun To Wonder?
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: A Getaway for Spiker and Sponge
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Everywhere That You Are
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: I Got You
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Plump and Juicy
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Empire State/The Attack
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: On Your Way Home (Reprise)
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Welcome Home
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: Exit Music

Show History


James and the Giant Peach is based on Roald Dahl's popular children's novel of the same name. Dahl wrote the novel in 1961. The original first edition, published by Alfred Knopf, featured illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert.


James and the Giant Peach debuted at Goodspeed Musical's Norma Terris Theatre in 2010. The production ran from October 21 November 21. This production was directed by Graciela Daniele and choreographed by Michael Tracy and the Connecticut-based dance troupe, Pilobolus.

The cast included: Justin Lawrence Hall (James), Ruth Gottschall (Spiker), Denny Dillon (Sponge) and Steve Rosen (Marvo the Magician). The ensembe included: Nick Gaswirth (Centipede), Jessica Hershberg, Chelsea Kromback (Mrs. Trotter/ Ladybug), Destan Owens (Earthworm), Marissa Lindsay Palley, Nicholas Park, Jim Stanek (Mr. Trotter/Green Grasshopper), Kate Wetherhead and Minami Yusui. The production also featured Pilobolus dancers: Otis Cook, Edwin Olvera, Roberto Olvera, Annika Sheaff, Holly Shunky and Derek Stratton.

The piece was then reworked and opened in Seattle in 2013. The new version featured the addition and subtraction of songs, as well as a new framing device. Pilobolus was no longer attached when the show moved to Seattle.

James and the Giant Peach ran at Seattle Children's Theatre from November 21, 2013, to January 12, 2014. The cast included: Mike Spee as James, Rich Gray as Centipede, Heath Saunders as Earthworm, Greg McCormick Allen as Grasshopper, Kendra Kassebaum as Ladybug, Diana Huey as Spider, Julie Briskman as Sponge and Jayne Muirhead as Spiker, with Vickielee Wohlbach, Ian Lindsay and Auston James.

Cultural Influence

  • The novel, James and the Giant Peach, was also adapted to film. Produced in conjunction with Disney, it was directed by Henry Selick and produced by Denise Di Novi and Tim Burton. It was released on April 12, 1996.
  • Timothy Allen McDonald, bookwriter for James and the Giant Peach, is a noted playwright. He has also adapted Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the stage in a piece called Willy Wonka.
  • James and the Giant Peach songwriting team, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, were nominated for a Tony Award in 2013 for their score of A Christmas Story.
  • Roald Dahl's children's books are considered modern classics. His other works include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The BFG.


  • A James and the Giant Peach official cast album was recorded in May 2014. In anticipation of that recording, the authors launched a nationwide search to cast a young actor as James, inviting open submissions.

Critical Reaction

"James and the Giant Peach is magical sweetness... something that can make a musical theater lover squeal with delight. A wonderfully touching show... filled with heart. Whether you're a parent looking for an outing for the kids, a lover of musicals who's interested in the latest local offering or a fan of the book, there's something here for everyone. I was absolutely delighted by the outcome."

"Seattle Children's Theatre stages yummy James and The Giant Peach. The kind of magic the late British writer [Roald Dahl] conjured: a little sweet, a little sour, a little edgy and sure to pique a child's imagination. The captivating world-premiere musical delights in dressing up the story in bright colors and jazzy tunes. It stays true to the author by not talking down to kids, and not sugaring up a story that finds its own zigzag route to a happy ending. [It features] music-hall-style songs in the blithe, catchy score by the young team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Along with a charming score, Timothy Allen McDonald's book is adroit."
– The Seattle Times



Based on the book, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl


You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
Words and Music by
Book by
Based on the book
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The names of the Owner, Composer/Lyricists and Bookwriter shall be equal in size, type, coloring boldness and prominence. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominent than the billing to the Authors except for the title of the Play.
The following credits shall appear on the title page of all programs for productions of the Play:
Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen
Incidental music by David Weinstein
Originally Produced at Seattle Children's Theater under the direction of
Linda Hartzell

Video Warning

If you purchase a separate license to allow non-commercial video recording of this production, you must print the following in your program. ANY VIDEO RECORDING MADE OF THIS PERFORMANCE IS AUTHORIZED FOR PERSONAL, AT-HOME, NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY. THE SALE OR DISTRIBUTION OF SUCH RECORDING IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED UNDER FEDERAL COPYRIGHT LAW. If you do not purchase the separate license for video recording, you must print the following in your program. The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

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