By Jori Waldron
Marriott Theatre’s summer children’s production of Junie B. Jones: The Musical, based on the book series by Barbara Park, provides the ideal opportunity for young children to experience a top-notch theatre production. This one-hour musical utilizes seven very talented and energetic cast members to bring the characters of Junie B. Jones, her parents, her first grade teacher, many of her friends and more to life.
Everyone of any age will enjoy this upbeat show with a simple story line following Junie B. Jones as she enters first grade. She must deal with a new class, making new friends, riding the bus, bringing her lunch, and needing glasses. To see a complete plot summary, click here.
Elizabeth Telford, plays the lovable young title character who sometimes feels awkward or embarrassed as she tries to navigate the world. Telford’s quirky clothing and endearing way of speaking make her relatable to young people and may remind adults how many of them still feel like first graders at times in their lives. Her father (portrayed by the versatile Adam LaSalle, who also plays her teacher and the bus driver) encourages Junie B. to take her lemons and make them into lemonade. Rashada Dawan plays her mother and a school friend, but she really shines as the lunch lady, who befriends Junie B. and gives her class cookies.
All of the scenes with Junie B’s school friends are delightful. They often involve interesting lights, such as the ones representing the items written on the chalkboard or things Junie B. writes in her diary, or fun props, like pom poms, cymbals, or the short stools on wheels that represent their desks and the seats on the bus. Loud Lucille (Allison Sill) used to be Junie B.’s best friend, but she has moved on. May (Lydia Burke) is the smarty pants in the room. Sheldon (Jackson Evans) has allergy problems but displays the best dance moves, including some from Fortnite that even teenagers will enjoy. Junie B.’s new best friend, Herb (Garrett Lutz) likes dinosaurs and supports Junie B. through everything that she does.
The songs, almost all fast-paced and brief, keep the audience engaged as they watch the actors work their magic in the Marriott’s famous theater in the round. On July 20, a special guest joined the audience: Marcia Heisler who helped write the musical. She came onstage at the end to answer questions during their typical ten-minute optional Q&A session, which helps children to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes.
Even if children have never read the books, they will adore this perfect production for all ages.
Marriott Theatre presents “Junie B. Jones: The Musical” through August 11 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. More information and tickets are available here.