A few weeks ago, we spent a wonderful couple of hours in the presence of the legendary author Roald Dahl. No, we didn’t hang out with his corpse or a Zombie Roald Dahl — more like, the author was present in spirit. That’s because we attended an event called A Splendiferous Afternoon of Roald Dahl!
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
On December 8th, actors, singers, and even the grandson of Roald Dahl gathered in NYC to celebrate the author with performances and speeches — all hosted by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author and artist of the Lunch Lady series.
The event raised money for a charity called First Book, which donates books to needy kids, so it was a good cause in addition to being a good time!
It truly was a splendiferous marvelous fantabulous afternoon, and we want to share it with you! So here’s our re-cap:
The event started with a performance from the Broadway musical Matilda — you can guess which Roald Dahl book the show is based on! Actress Sophia Gennusa belted out the song “Naughty,” which is totally inspirational, not to mention catchy! Here’s a version of the song that was performed in England:
Then actor Paul Giammati read from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — but he didn’t just read from it. He also took on the voices and body language of the characters, and his maniacal Willy Wonka laugh definitely caused all of us in the audience to crack up ourselves.
It felt like being transported into the factory, gliding along the chocolate river in a candy boat and watching the unfortunate Violet Beauregarde turn from a gum-chewing little girl into a giant blueberry right in front of our eyes.
Mara Wilson and Amy Ryan
Next, we learned about how some seemingly nice and harmless ladies can actually be evil creatures intent on squelching children — as actresses Amy Ryan and Mara Wilson read from The Witches. (Fun fact: Mara Wilson played Matilda in the movie version from 1996; now she’s 26 years old!)
Our favorite part of this performance was that it ended on a cliffhanger: We were told that there are a few telltale characteristics of witches that will help us distinguish them from normal women and that we should always keep these warning signs in mind — and that’s where the reading ended! We assume many in the audience raced to the library immediately after the event to research this very important info.
Luke Kelly, coincidentally looking like a BFG next to Sophia Gennusa from Matilda the Musical
Roald Dahl’s grandson, Luke Kelly, did the next reading, which was from the book The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me. But first, he shared some lovely family stories — for instance, some nights Dahl would stand outside his daughters’ windows with a horn so they would think The BFG was real! (He never fooled them, btw; they always knew it was him.)
Luke Kelly also revealed some tidbits about the unfinished story that Dahl was working on when he died. It’s about a man named Billy Bubbler who makes up all sorts of crazy inventions, like cavity fillings that are made out of sweets. One of his creations is a machine that lets people talk with dogs — and this was going to be the main adventure in the story. It’s just too bad Dahl never got to finish it!
After that, we visited England in the 1920s, with a reading by actor James Naughton from Dahl’s memoir, Boy: Tales of Childhood. He took us back to Dahl’s days at Llandaff Cathedral School, when he admired an older student with serious bicycle skillz and waged war against the disgusting mean old lady who owned the local candy store. Also, would you like to hear a theory about how rats are mashed into licorice? Read this book!
Matt Cavenaugh and Jenny Powers
From there, we journeyed to a land of pure imagination, thanks to Broadway performers Jenny Powers and Matt Cavenaugh. They sang “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
And to finish things off, the entire adult cast of the show — including Jarrett J. Krosoczka — returned to the stage to perform a reading from James and the Giant Peach. And so we watched James wander through the juicy oversized fruit all the way to the pit, where he meets The Centipede, The Earthworm, The Old Green Grasshopper, The Ladybug, Miss Spider, and The Glowworm for the first time.
The full cast!
Then we all clapped and cheered and chattered about how awesome this splendiferous afternoon had been as we made our way out into the theater lobby… and discovered that while we had been visiting with Dahl, New York City’s first real snow of the season had started to fall!
“Epic!” everyone yelled, and we all tromped outside into the swirling white splendiferous night.
PS – This amazing event was held at Symphony Space in Manhattan. If you happen to live in the NYC area, you and your parents should check it out. They have a program called the Thalia Book Club for avid readers and writers ages 9-13!
PPS – If you’ve been inspired to read (or re-read) some of Roald Dahl’s splendiferous books, check out our recommendations and other fun stuff right here on Kidsmomo!
Event photos courtesy of First Book Manhattan.