PITTSBURG — Pittsburg’s school-aged stars have another hit on their hands.
Area audiences will recognize a number of familiar faces in Pittsburg Community Theatre’s talented cast performing “Junie B. Jones the Musical,” which kicks off its run today with a set of sold-out showings for schools from around the region, followed by performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday as well as 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pittsburg’s Memorial Auditorium.
Parents or grandparents of recent elementary students are likely to be familiar with the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Parks, and the play encompasses many of the best moments.
“Our goal for this slot of our season is to have literature tie-in,” said Director Greg Shaw.
He said recent spring shows have included “The Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and other heavier works, and this year he looked for a show that would be more of a theater for young audiences format.
Upon reading the script and hearing the music, Shaw said he was sold on “Junie B. Jones, the Musical.”
The play opens with a high-energy Junie B. Jones (McKenna Shaw) entering the first grade and celebrating her “Top Secret Personal Beeswax Journal.”
Unfortunately, things quickly take a turn for the worse when Junie B.’s best friend, Lucille (Abbi Epperson) announces she has found a pair of new best friends, Camille (Cassie Hurt-McLarty) and Chenille (Jocelyn Donegan), and Junie B.’s bus buddy, Bobbie Jean (Gracie Spencer) does the same.
However, she soon finds she enjoys many of the same things as Herb (Matthew Buck), who stands up for her when she gets her first pair of glasses.
Along the way, the audience is introduced to other delightfully quirky first-grade characters, including Sheldon (Will Jewett), Jose (Tristin Perrin), May (Ciara Sanchez), Grace (Taylor Smith), Lennie (Gabe Anderson), as well as classroom teacher Mr. Scary (also played by Gracie Spencer), Mrs. Gutzman (John Mazurek) and Junie B’s parents (Teresa Jameson and John Mazurek).
While there’s no doubt that any child who has read the Junie B. Jones books will enjoy the show, parents also are in for a treat.
“It’s a short show, but it never has a dull moment or a slow song,” said McKenna Shaw. “Kids especially, but adults too, will enjoy that it’s really different than any other musical you’ll ever see.”
Will Jewett, who choreographed the show, agreed.
“It’s like we don’t stop moving,” he said. “We’re sometimes running into place.”
But he said that action and excitement, combined with actors and dancers performing on the pit area and right up next to the audience, brings an intimate feel to the show.
Add to that a set that perfectly sets the stage for an elementary classroom, a series of hilarious adventures and favorite book moments that elementary schoolers are sure to recognize, and “Junie B. Jones the Musical” is a can’t-miss for this weekend.
Cast members are: Matthew Buck, Herb; McKenna Shaw, Junie B. Jones; Maddie Baden, Dancer; Alexis Daniels, Dancer; Cassie Hurt-McLarty, Camille; Gracie Spencer, Bobbie Jean & Mr. Scary; Tristin Perrin, Jose; Aubri Hoffman, Dancer; Ciara Sanchez, May; Taylor Smith, Grace; Abbi Epperson, Lucille; Gabe Anderson, Lennie; Teresa Jameson, Mother & Mr. Woo; Jocelyn Donegan, Chenille; Alli Baden, Dancer; Will Jewett, Sheldon; John Mazurek, Daddy & Mrs. Gutzman.
The performance is directed by Greg Shaw, with help from Tony Sanchez, assistant director/props; Mary Jo Harper, music director; Will Jewett, choreographer; Jason Huffman, sound design/board operator; Olivia Ellison, playback operator; Kirsten Burke, light design/board operator; John Hollan, hair and makeup; Todd Hoover-Holthus, costumes; Andra Stefanoni, web/advertising and Jenna Spencer, scenic artist.
— Sarah Gooding is a staff writer for The Morning Sun and can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.