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Review: ‘Junie B. Jones’ is a ‘charming, wholesome’ production

By Ali K. Khatib

Salisbury High School

On the stage of Norvell Theater, “Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook” is an exciting performance by some of our great young talents. It is a charming, wholesome and adorable production that’s sure to take you back to your days running around on the playground at recess.

The Piedmont Players theatre production begins as Junie B. Jones (Cara Hayes) goes to school wearing her beloved furry black mittens that her grandfather, Frank Miller (Thomas Gushlaw), got for her.

Hayes, in her first ever Piedmont Players production, brings a charismatic energy into her role as Junie B. with Gushlaw bringing a wonderfully sweet touch to the role, convincing you he’s known Junie B. all her life.

At recess, Junie B. with her friends Grace and Lucille (McKinley Collins and Emory Madeline Haynes) play around on the slide and climb all over the playground. But first, Junie B. takes off her mittens and places them atop her jacket so they won’t get dirty.

When she returns, she finds the mittens gone.

Collins and Haynes were adorably sweet and humorous at the best times. Collins’ energetic personality makes her character as fast as lightning with her new running shoes and Haynes’ “precious” nature lends herself to portraying a Lucille that really is the princess of Room No. 9.

Junie B. goes on to school dejected the next day with her classmates Ricardo, Junie B.’s boyfriend (Luke Bardinas), who’s sure to get plenty of giggles, and Meanie Jim (Jakob Wagner), who quarrels with Junie B. on an almost daily basis.

Let’s not forget about Handsome Warren (Jackson Walters), the new kid at school who’s struggling to make new friends. Warren is constantly chased by the trio of girls trying to convince him that he should be their next boyfriend.

Walters had a cool-kid vibe that you couldn’t miss and was able to contrast that later in the show with his vulnerability.

Connor Towns, Marry Masters Goodman and Sebastian Butchart added to the production to a significant degree playing characters from grandpas (Towns) and fluffy girls (Goodman) to firemen and mitten crooks (Butchart). Together, they created an environment that truly is whimsical, exemplified by the vibrant set designed by the one and only Reid Leonard with the aid of Alexis Greer, Dan Mikkelson and Clyde Overcash.

Not only do the kids provide ample joy and entertainment but so do the adult figures in the show. Sixth-grader Sari Grace Lewin, playing Junie B.’s teacher, is wise beyond her years. Her performance was one that helped round out an already wonderful production along with her fellow adult figures like the principal (Grace McCoy), who helped guide Junie B.’s morality; the office assistant (McKenna Anderson), managing the lost and found; and Junie B.’s mother (Abby Bogle), who reassures Junie B. that she’ll find her mittens eventually.

The primary school adventures of Junie B. Jones will take you on a wild ride you’ll find hard not to enjoy. From its humor to its life lessons, “Junie B. Jones Is Not A Crook” is a show that I highly recommend to sparse and avid show comers alike.

Come see this heartwarming show at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.

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