(Orem, Utah) -- Junie B. Jones and her menagerie of friends will celebrate childhood with its funny and dramatic adventures when “Junie B. Jones The Musical” takes audiences to 1st grade for six public performances Oct. 14, 18,21,25,28 and Nov. 1 @ 7:00pm.
Shawn M. Mortensen, who often acts in SCERA’s popular Theatre for Young Audiences shows, is taking the director’s helm this time, and says adults will probably enjoy the show even more than children because of the hilarious script. He adds, “If you’ve read the books, you know how funny Junie B. is as a character, and that same personality comes through in the musical.”
“The shows are designed to introduce children to the magic of live theatre, and the elementary school age kids who see these shows invariably find it funny that adults take children’s roles and act as kids,” he says. “These adult actors are very good at pretending, laughing and giggling at things children typically consider humorous. But adults will find it funny to watch as they identify characteristics of their own children or other children they know.”
The adaptation of five of author Barbara Park’s best-selling books is purposely made affordable for families, with tickets at $6 for adults and $4 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Seating and reserved, and tickets can be purchased at scera.org, by calling (801) 225-ARTS, in person at the main office at SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State St., Orem, or at the box office 30 minutes prior to each performance.
Brittney Wallace plays sassy and lovable first grader Junie B., and Brittney’s stage experience includes roles as Fiona in “Shrek,” Babette in “Beauty and the Beast” and as Swill in last fall’s TYA show “How I Became A Pirate.” She studied musical theatre at Western Wyoming Community College and Weber State University, and was a featured vocalist in the five-star reviewed “Best of...” Series at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland! But perhaps it’s her five children that might give her the most insight into how to play a realistic first grader!
Other cast members include Junie B.’s friends Lucille, Camille and Chenille (Tracy Gubler, Elizabeth Crandall and Jessie Stephenson) who perform a Supremes-style number; Herb played by Ty Pew; May is Anya Wilson; Sheldon is James Marden; Grace is Kaley Loveless; Bobbi Jean Piper is Keilana Lybbert; and Jose is Thomas Rose. Robyn Pew plays her teacher Mr. Scary as well as the friendly cafeteria lady Mrs. Gutzman.
The escapades of the little literary diva are made larger than life with musical numbers that could be staged on Broadway. “If we had a Broadway budget, every number would be a show-stopper with glitz and glitter. As it is, the music turns our show into a big production. Music really is a star here, and we have a gifted musical director in Dr. J. Arden Hopkin.”
The musical focuses on such issues as getting glasses, meeting a handsome boy you are sure you are going to marry, and is filled with characters ranging from the bully to the shy child and the child who speaks to two languages as well as the kid who is allergic to meat, cheese and dairy.
“In childhood, every action and person are expansive, and Junie and her friends must maneuver through the joys and pitfalls of childhood,” Mortensen adds. “On her first day of first grade, for example, Junie learns her best pal doesn’t want to continue as a best friends. She also meets a new kid to befriend, she enjoys a game of kickball—and her “top-secret beeswax journal” is also featured. At the end of it all, the message is that you are going to be okay and everything else will be, too.”
Mortensen, who also serves as choreographer, is using Jason Sevy to design the set. “We’ve made it to resemble the illustrations in the Junie B. books, with lots of bright colors and details reminiscent of a real first grade classroom – including those elementary school desks we all know and love.”
Mortensen, lighting designer Chase Elison and props designer Christy Norton have worked together to use black lighting on the song “You Need Glasses,” where big glasses will glow in the dark. Another fun highlight is a Flintstone-style school bus that rolls on stage.
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