The offbeat works of children's author Roald Dahl have been an enduringly popular source of movie, television and stage adaptations over the past 70 years or so.
Yet even to the most avid fan, "James and the Giant Peach" seems to be a somewhat odd choice for a musical theater adaptation - particularly one geared toward children. After all, as the name implies, much of the story centers on an enormous piece of fruit, which makes the staging something of a challenge.
In addition, the story itself has a somewhat darker tone than Dahl's better-known works, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Matilda" (both of which have also been successfully adapted to stage and screen).
Yet when Detroit Lakes native Kendra Gilsdorf was hired as the assistant stage manager for last summer's "James & the Giant Peach Jr." production by the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, "I totally fell in love with it," she said - so when she had the opportunity to direct a similar production at DL's own Historic Holmes Theatre this summer, she jumped at it.
"It's my very first time directing," said Gilsdorf, though she is a veteran of both Detroit Lakes High School theatrical productions and the 16-17 shows staged each year at Minnesota State University Mankato, where she will be a senior this fall.
"I'm a theater generalist," she added, noting that while her theater major has involved many opportunities to work closely with some very talented directors on various productions, "I have yet to sit in the director's chair myself."
At least, until now - yet she is quick to point out that her directorial debut is far from a solo effort: Fellow DLHS alum Nick Larson is the music director, while soon-to-be DLHS senior Hope Hansen is the choreographer.
"We each take the lead in our own area, but we're not afraid to bleed into the other areas if it helps each other out," Gilsdorf said. "That was my game plan from the start - it's a total collaborative effort."
In addition, Gilsdorf says, she has received plenty of assistance from the staff of both the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community Education (which is co-sponsoring the production), along with the parents of the 30-plus theater camp kids who comprise the cast - and the cast themselves has been providing lots of input as well.
"They have some great, creative ideas," Gilsdorf said, adding that because the script and songs were pretty new to the kids at theater camp when they started, and she and her co-directors were pretty new to their roles as well, "We are all students - we're learning right along with them."
Gilsdorf noted that auditions started just days after she completed her classes at Mankato and returned to Detroit Lakes for the summer, with rehearsals getting underway the Tuesday after Memorial Day.
"We're in our fourth (and final) week right now," she said, adding, "it's gone really fast... but the kids are doing wonderfully. They've worked their butts off. We'll be ready."
If you go
What: 'James & the Giant Peach Jr."
When: Friday, June 21, 7 p.m., and Saturday, June 22, 11 a.m.
Where: Historic Holmes Theatre, Detroit Lakes
Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students, available online at www.dlccc.org/holmes-theatre.html, by phone at 218-844-7469, or in person at the Holmes Box Office, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes.
Lahdahlord: Linnea Aelony
James: Hannah Barberg
Ladybug: Marlo Schmitz
Grasshopper: Brady Wirtz
Spider: Emma Mitchell
Earthworm: Mara Bestge
Centipede: Isaac Tangen
Spiker: Lily Sundby
Sponge: Brooklyn Johnson
Matron Nurse: Lexi Schmoll
Mr. Trotter: Ethan Hendrickson
Mrs. Trotter: Marion Martin
Karl Kreatour: Eric Beaupre
Billy Bobby-Cop: Chase Housholder
Bobby Bobby-Cop: Corbin Krump
Doreen Driggles (Vagrant): Brielle Solberg
Violet Funkschmeller (Vagrant): Taylor Laudon
Ridgley Rapscallion (Vagrant): Mike Stoll
Chris Cryermouth (Vagrant): Elliot Frost
Ida Waters (Reporter): Macy Soyring
Bitsy Botana (Garden Guild): Megan Engum
Buzz (Hollywood Agent): Andrew Nunn
Ensemble (Sharks, Seagulls, Vagrants, New Yorkers, Reporters, Garden Guild, Hollywood Agents, etc.):Lexi Schmoll, Ethan Hendrickson, Marion Martin, Eric Beaupre, Chase Housholder, Corbin Krump, Brielle Solberg, Brooklyn Johnson, Mike Stoll, Elliot Frost, Macy Soyring, Megan Engum, Andrew Nunn, Merida Jansen, Madi McLaughlin, Aunica Ekholm, Alyssa Buzick, Carsen Jensen, Lily Martinson, Coal Ward, Taylor Laudon, Quinn Rogstad, Brody Lade