March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Every child — and heck, most every adult —dreams of embarking on a grand journey, and the best theater performances allow audiences to do just that. But while “James and the Giant Peach” offers an ample dose of high adventure, that transportive quality is surprisingly evasive.

Based on Roald Dahl´s beloved children’s book, “James” follows the titular orphan as he escapes his miserable existence via a magical, fuzzy fruit and befriends a crew of madcap arthropods. The show is enthusiastically performed by the game cast, but enthusiasm is all they have to work with. Jokes, quips and songs fall flat, and entire chunks of dialogue are either inaudible or incomprehensible. At times it is difficult to see what a child would glean from it all, other than being distracted by the din and some colorful costumes.

The true highlight of the show is the set, sound and projection design. The creative use of backdrop projection to depict the gargantuan peach, light graphics on the stage floor and simple yet effective sonic flourishes work to immerse you in this world. Although the decision to stage most of the action on a spiral staircase at the rear of the set — likely for practical reasons — affords some fun cast interactions, it inhibits a true suspension of disbelief into this fantasy world.

“James” does have enough whimsy to mostly entertain children (the target audience), but adults might find themselves squirming as if they’d sat on a peach pit.

“James and the Giant Peach”
MSU Department of Theatre
Through Oct. 21
7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
$20 general/$10 students/$13 seniors, faculty/$8 children
MSU Pasant Theatre
Wharton Center, East Lansing