Grasshoppers, ladybugs, and oversized fruit will be well-represented in local community theater.
Rising songwriting duo Justin Paul and Benj Pasek are the Tony-nominated brains behind a new musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, based on Dahl’s classic children’s book (which became a hit film in 1996). After a premiere at the Kennedy Center in 2004, a U.S. tour, and recent premieres at Seattle Children’s Theatre and Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, the show—which features a book by Timothy Allen McDonald—has been acquired for student and community licensing, and there’s an all-star cast album to prove it.
Megan Hilty (as Ladybug), Christian Borle (as Grasshopper), Brian d’Arcy James (as Centipede) and more headline the new cast recording, which is available for free on the show’s website. But the buzzy project has also attracted interest from other theater stars, including two whose performances you can watch exclusively on EW.com.
First, there’s Pitch Perfect star Skylar Astin, whose rendition of James’ ballad “Middle of a Moment” is a bonus track on the 20-track album (along with Megan Hilty’s only solo). An ultra-casual Pitch fan may not know that Astin was an original player in the Broadway production of Spring Awakening back in 2006, but here he returns to his musical theater roots:
Criss, who will return to Broadway on April 22 in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is not featured on the James and the Giant Peach album. He did, however, perform one of James’ songs—“On Your Way Home”—to a crowd of 5,000 at this year’s Junior Theater Festival. Watch his reunion with fellow University of Michigan alums Pasek and Paul here: