by Penny Notter
What happens when you team the beloved children’s book author Barbara Park’s work with the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre: It’s Christmas in April at the Civic! Straight from the storybook, the Theatre brings to life the world’s funniest first-grader, Junie B. Jones. The production takes the stage from April 18-27.
“Whether you are familiar with Junie B. Jones or not, you won’t be disappointed. I found myself laughing out loud just reading the script!” admitted Civic Theatre Associate Director, Penelope Notter. “The script follows the book closely and Junie B., and her classmates have been cast by 10-11 year old students from our School of Theatre Arts.”
The casting of children in the first grader roles brings a level of realism and connection for young audience members. When producing a popular and endearing children’s favorite story, the Theatre works hard to bring the book’s pages to life. “This creates that magic moment that makes Live Theatre real” states Community Relations Director, Nancy Brozek. “For so many children, this is the moment they remember throughout their life. It is the moment they become a fan of the art!”
As a teaching Theatre, the Civic involves the actors in many aspects of the production. Prop Master, Michael Wilson notes “With this show, the cast are involved in making some of the props for the show. They will be creating the ornaments for the classroom’s tree and other decorations. To be authentic, these decorations should look like they are made by children. This accomplishes that AND provides them (cast) with some insight into another role in theatre.”
Barbara Park’s books have been showing children that reading is fun for the past 20 years. This Allison Gregory adaptation brings Park’s clever humor to the stage, and is sure to bring that magical moment to young audience members too. In theatre, it doesn’t have to be December for Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells and Batman Smells to help keep your holiday spirit alive this spring.