Children's Musical

Junie B. Jones

April 18 - May 1
Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium

H-T Review

Cardinal musical is excellent bet for a fun outing with the kids

by Matthew Waterman – April  21, 2015

 

After a wildly successful year of kindergarten, Junie B. Jones is back for first grade. Everything that happens this year, Junie B. has decided, will be eternally recorded in her diary of “top secret personal beeswax.”

That “top secret personal beeswax” comes to life at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in Cardinal Stage Company’s production of “Junie B. Jones, the Musical.” This show is part of the Cardinal for Kids season.

The play is adapted from an eponymous series of children’s books by Barbara Park. The books have gained popularity recently, reaching the New York Times Bestseller list.

Rather than following one unified storyline, the show chronicles an array of events in the life of young Junie B. Jones. Themes include making friends, working hard and dealing with those pesky occasions when one is not the center of attention.

Junie B. shows up on the first day to discover that her friend Lucille, with whom she sat all last year, has two new twin friends with rhyming names and matching looks: Camille and Chenille.

When Junie B. loses her seat buddy on the school bus, she is forced to make friends with someone new. Junie B. resists Herbert at first, but he ends up being vital to her survival of first grade and teaching her that friendships sometimes come and go.

Berklea Going puts forth a very strong performance as the lovable title character. Going’s attitude, energy, physicality and singing are all commendable.

The other cast members play several roles each. Audrey Deinlein (Lucille/Jose/Bobby J. Piper), Chad Singer (Herb/Camille), Kayla Marie Eilers (May/Mom/Grace), Mike Price (Mr. Scary/Mrs. G/Dad/Mr. Woo) and Scott Van Wye (Sheldon/Lennie/Chenille) comprise the consistently entertaining ensemble.

Ethan Philbeck impressively stepped in at the last minute for the roles of Sheldon, Lennie and Chenille in this past weekend’s performances, but Van Wye is slated to rejoin the cast for future shows.

Kids’ shows need to be tight to cater to their audience’s short attention span, and director Randy White recognizes this. “Junie B. Jones” is a fast hour of theater.

The dancing (choreographed by Diane Buzzell) and music (composed by Zina Goldrich and directed by Ray Fellman) are both on target. “You Can Be My Friend” and “Show and Tell” are especially pleasing numbers.

Truly, the most significant evidence of the production’s quality is this: The kids paid attention. The otherwise rowdy children at Saturday’s opening performance were quickly persuaded to settle down once Junie B. opened her mouth.

In the end, Junie B. learns that “growing up is scary, but it’s also kind of fun.”

“Junie B. Jones, the Musical” is an excellent bet for a fun outing with the kids.