Silly grasshopper, just have fun

LIHUE — When the cast of “James and the Giant Peach JR.” is feeling a bit silly, that’s when director Rebecca Hanson tells them they’re doing things right.

”You should feel silly. You’re a centipede, you’re a grasshopper,” she says, laughing.

So starting Friday, for three shows, that’s what they’ll do.

The Hawaii Children’s Theatre’s ‘Summer Stars’ program presents James and the Giant Peach JR. at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center.

The hour-long musical includes nearly 50 kids playing a variety of roles for different scenes. Each sings and dances and above all, enjoys being on stage.

“Some hold back because they feel silly. I want them to just have fun and get out there,” Hanson said.

Rehearsals began five weeks ago to mesh the talents of experienced and novice keiki actors. Because cast members play different characters, they’re challenged to be well-rounded performers and have more than answered the call, Hanson said.

Many of the kids don’t know each other and are tentative at the start. But by the night of performances, most are fast friends and full of energy and bursting with pride. It helps to know they are rooting for each other.

More important than being sure her young cast delivers perfect lines and choreography, Hanson wants to build self-esteem and confidence in them to bring out their best.

“We really want to strengthen focus, teamwork, and collaboration,” she said. “We all have to support each other and encourage each other to put forth our best product. If we’re not going to help each other, it’s not going to look great in the end.”

She encourages the community to come out and support the performing arts.

“It allows the kids to be who they are,” she said.

Hanson, who previously directed “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” loves being part of Hawaii Children’s Theatre. The kids and their enthusiasm always brighten her day.

“Watching them grow, watching them learn, seeing their smiles, that’s what makes me want to do this,” she said.

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