A Roald Dahl renaissance has been happening lately, even if his books have remained timeless as their messages have reached people of all ages. It was all started by the Tim Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a film that was closer to original book than the Gene Wilder film. It was a great critical and box office success. This was followed up by the West End and Broadway productions of Matilda, a show I believe doesn't capture the magic of the brilliant film, but is a critical juggernaut and just celebrated its 3 year anniversary on Broadway recently.
Disney joins in the fun this year, the 100th anniversary of Roald's birth, with its film adaptation of The BFG. The trailer has been released to some great buzz, with the Spielberg name attached helping plenty. The film looks luscious and striking, really capturing the genius of Dahl's books. It should be a great success for Disney, as everything Dahl touches tends to turn to gold. His books have such inventive and moving stories that one can't not enjoy them.
However, it isn't the first Dahl book that Disney has adapted. The first was James and the Giant Peach, which premiered 20 years ago the day I write this. The live-action/stop-motion hybrid garnered universal acclaim, but was a complete dud at the box office, not making back its $38 million budget. However, the film has received somewhat of a cult following for its dark look at what lies inside the giant peach. The character design, in my opinion, is the best of any stop-motion film I've ever seen and the creepy factor helps create a lush environment for the characters to thrive in.
I'm a fan already, but a recent rediscovery of mine has me absolutely obsessed with the story. In 2013, the world premiere production of a musical version of James and the Giant Peach opened in Seattle. The show was created with licensing in mind (EX: Newsies and the upcoming Freaky Friday musical), but licensing is hard with no cast recording. It's the nature of musical theater that if you don't create a cast recording, chances are your show won't be licensed half as much as one with an album.
With this known, they released a cast album of the show, with music written by Pasek and Paul (a duo that you NEED to look up, as I am anxiously awaiting Disney picking them up). The recording was released FOR FREE and was sung by an all-star Broadway cast. Daniel Breaker, Jackie Hoffman, Mary Testa, Christian Borle, Brian D'arcy James, Marc Kudish, Sarah Stiles and Megan Hilty make up a phenomenal Broadway heavyweight cast. James is played by former Les in Newsies, Luca Padovan (who I believe I saw, but can't confirm and it is killing me).
Now, this is where I obsess over Luca Padovan. His voice is stunning. The boy can BELT a high note when need be, and his two solos show off his vocal prowess. I have been trying to hit the notes in my room for days now, even though the show in written in a key for a child and I am 20. I can hit them now, but I'm probably getting nodules on my vocal chords -- worth it. He is currently starring as Billy (the Stylist) in School of Rock on Broadway right now. I've determined that we are the same person. Musical Theatre fan? Check. Enjoys singing? Check. Sass for days? CHECK CHECK CHECK! I can't get enough of his solo "On Your Way Home," his sadness is palpable in the song and every note holds a ton of emotion. I want to be his best friend. HE IS SO GOOD, Y'ALL!
AND I'm back from my tangent. The show's music is rich, layered and covers many a genre. There are some gorgeous normal musical theatre songs (sung by the best friend in my head, Luca, especially. "Middle of a Moment" is a new gem of the theatre.), a fun country inspired number, some Latin influences here and there, etc. It all combines into a stunning musical that is great for the entire family.
What am I getting at? Disney needs to pay some money, take the licensed show rights and produce the show themselves on the Broadway. The story and music are ripe for a stunning set and direction (May I suggest Bartlett Sher, Matthew Warchus or Liesl Tommy?) on a big stage. The cast from the album seems impossible to all book for the hypothetical run, but Luca Padovan singing these songs 8 times a week is a necessity. HE IS SO GOOD.
If Disney had a brain in their head, they would bring this ASAP to the Great White Way. They almost need to pick it up just to have the beautiful song "Everywhere That You Are" part of the Disney company. A great story, a great score and a great star, right under their noses? Not picking up this incredible musical would be just rotten.
Head over to JATGP.com to download the cast album for FREE!
Also, Luca played Eliza in the Miscast Schuyler Sisters performance and we are the same person and I want to be his friend.