OREM — The SCERA has created a fun theatre for young audiences production of the new musical Junie B. Jones the Musical, and my daughter and I enjoyed it. We loved the story, the acting, and the music. The set was colorful and childlike and a great fit for the show. This musical was engaging and well-written, and definitely worth seeing, especially with kids.
You may not have heard of Junie B. Jones, but most elementary school girls have. The book series by Barbara Park tells stories about the adventures and experiences of 5-year-old Junie B. from her perspective. The stage version (with script and lyrics by Marcy Heisler and music by Zina Goldrich) focuses on Junie B. going to school for first grade and dealing with the difficulties and enjoying the fun times. It has the lunch lady helper story, the kickball tournament story, and (my favorite moment) when Junie made a new friend on the bus.
My 6-year-old daughter was the perfect age for this show, and she had a blast. At the end when they shot streamers into the audience she was busily gathering every last bit near her to take home as a souvenir. She also wanted to greet all the cast members after the show and get a picture with the star. The SCERA was a good venue for this show, with their tasty snacks and kid-friendly atmosphere.
I was most impressed by the acting and dancing. Director/Choreographer Shawn Mortensen imagined fun and entertaining moves for the actors that expressed their kid attitudes and behaviors. I loved how synchronized everyone was on the line of fan kicks during the lunch lady’s song. I also enjoyed the mom dragging Junie offstage after she hurt her foot and refused to walk. Another terrific moment was the drawing scene in which the kids circled Junie B., showing off their drawings.
The principal cast was so good that my daughter kept asking if they were experiencing stuff in real life (like when one got hurt or was angry) or if they were pretending for the show. Brittney Wallace played Junie B. and had a strong energy, just right for a kid. I was surprised at the beginning how quietly she was singing, but after her first few lines I realized she was probably saving her voice for the play’s later loud and intense parts. Her costume (designed by Kelsey Seaver) was a fun array of multi-colored clothes, some more worn than others, which brought an enjoyable reality to the show. The other costumes had similar looks, where the twins matched but their outfits were slightly ridiculous and cute, and the snotty boy had high tight jeans and a camo shirt. (I can remember a boy in my first grade class looking exactly like that.) It was so entertaining to see their personalities displayed in their costumes.
Anya Wilson played May (Junie’s classmate) and Junie’s mom. It was amazing to see her transform from such a course, bossy person who enjoyed seeing others’ pain to Wilson playing an understanding and kind mom. I especially liked her obstinate reaction when the teacher took away her megaphone. I also enjoyed the performance of Tracy Gubler, playing Lucille. She had a tenacity that was perfect for her role, and though her dancing skills seemed good, she was able to act more like a kid about it than a trained dancer, which made her movements look authentic.
At times during the show I was distracted by a couple supporting actors who had a less engaging expression. One time was during the first song, “Top Secret Personal Beeswax,” and another was during the “Gladys Gutzman” number. But everyone seemed more engaged during “Show and Tell.” Also, the stage got too dark during some moments (such as the first song), and it was hard to understand what was going on. However, these issues seemed of little consequence given the value received for such a low ticket price.
By the end of this delightful production of Junie B. Jones the Musical, my daughter was star struck by the end. I’m glad we got to see it together. And with a running time of only an hour and 15 minutes, the show was the perfect length for her attention span and mine. The SCERA made Junie B. Jones so fun for kids, and reminiscent for adults who went to public school. The show has an early curtain time of 7 PM, so show up early and get your snacks.