Review: Junie B. Jones is fantastic

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

By Sarah Hallett

Special to the Salisbury Post

Who doesn’t remember how big the world seemed when we were little?

For those of us of the right age, we even remember that the change from kindergarten to first grade felt like all the growing up you’d ever need to do, and all at once.

This season, Piedmont Players treats us to a musical production of childhood classic “Junie B. Jones: First Grader.” In this family-fun-filled show, the audience gets to go on all the adventures from their youth, as told by everyone’s favorite rascal.

Precocious Junie B. Jones, played with spunk and pizzazz by young actress Emery Franz, marches to the beat of her own drum, doesn’t need to color in the lines, and is always up for something new and exciting. For her, first grade seems like a piece of cake. She is ready to document all her new adventures in her new “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” journal.

This script wastes no time filling those pages with all kinds of beeswax. From making new friends on the bus —Herb, played by Connor Towns — to dealing with a new pair of glasses, this play manages to capture how important these challenges are to youngsters without losing any laughs.

Macy Abramson puts in excellent work as Junie B.’s adorably sassy foil, “Bossy Head” May. The musical numbers in the show are well choreographed and executed, and add even more flash to the already lively show. The number “Lucille, Camille, Chenille,” received a number of audience compliments, with praise being showered on the trio of Sari Lewin, August Hoffman, and Kelsey Goodman.

That’s not to say the audience didn’t have tons to say about all the other young actors. Korbynne Hill and Alex Blumenthal portrayed Junie B.’s mom and dad with just the right combination of stern and tender. There’s also the lovely lunch lady — affectionately called “Queen of Snacks” — Mrs. Gutzman, played with a big, warm smile by Sara Beth Richard.

In fact, the entire ensemble cast brought a wonderful life and flair which drove the play energetically all the way to the big, finale kickball tournament. There’s also a decent bit of moral and truth to the show, which lets everyone know that being the star isn’t the most important thing, it’s doing your best.

This cast proves just that, with no actor outshining another. It’s quality work from all sides.

The set — beautifully designed by Reid Leonard, Allen Jones, and Greer — is exactly what you need to go back to seeing the world with the fresh, curious eyes of a first grader. Gwen Matthews has brought together a quirky and fun group of young actors that really remind us of the folks we all knew way back when recess was forever long and there was a nap on the other side.

Ashley Ward and Eastern Costume Company do excellent work with exceptional costuming that complemented the whimsical chaos of the set, complete with mis-matched socks and poofy red tutus. This reviewer thinks everyone should get themselves over to the Norvell Theatre to spend a little time with the clever little kid they still are at heart.

Junie B. Jones: The Musical continues at the Norvell Theater today at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Shows continue next week Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Adults $12, seniors/students $10.

For tickets call 704-633-5471 or purchase online at PiedmontPlayers.com.

Sarah Hallett is a senior at Jesse C. Carson High School.

 

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