On Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a performance of Junie B. Jones: The Musical at the Lower Ossington Theatre (LOT) in Toronto. Who’s Junie B. Jones, I hear you ask? Do not worry. I was asking myself the same question, as I waited in the visitor’s area of the theatre.
For those like myself, who are unfamiliar with the title character, Junie B. Jones is the main female protagonist in a series of children’s books, written by the much loved, late author Barbara Park. The books were individually released between the years of 1993 and 2002, and became extremely popular in both Canada and the US. After noticing how successful the series became, Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich joined forces to finally bring Junie to life on the stage, in the form of a family-friendly musical…now shown across the states. This time around, it was the Lower Ossington Theatre’s turn to give their take on the story.
As the lights dimmed in the theatre, we were introduced to Junie, who is about to start her first day of First Grade. With her outspoken, energetic and hyperactive personality, Junie is not only excited about this new adventure, but a bit apprehensive also. What is going to happen? Would it be different from kindergarten and will she make new friends? All these tiny worries of a typical 6 year old may seem minuscule in the eyes of an adult, but to Junie they are so much more, with a little extra drama of course.
With her 4 friends Lucille, May, Sheldon and Herbert by her side, her secret diary always in her hand (known as her Top-Secret-Personal-Beeswax Journal) and her signature purple glasses, nothing can get in Junie’s way. Or can it?
The musical, as well as the books are a delight to all, but especially for children. The entire musical is a learning adventure for kids; full of fun and laughter, but most of all, it contains important life lessons for both children and adults.
Through the catchy, creative songs and the talents of the cast, led by the very talented Jessica Harb (Junie), the importance of self expression, reading and writing, the power of friendship and the need to search for the silver lining in every dark cloud, are conveyed to the audience throughout.
The entire cast were phenomenal, but what more can you expect from the performers of the LOT. Jessica Harb was the perfect candidate to play the main role, as she portrayed Junie’s sassy, excitable and sometimes awkward character perfectly. Seanna Kennedy perfected the role of May with humour and wit, whereas Hannah Ehman was adorable as the Queen Bee of first grade, Lucille. Taylor Lavigne and Chris Vergara brought excitement and energy, as well as fun to the kids, in their roles of Sheldon and Herbert. But it was Mark Willett, who had us all laughing in the role of Gladys Gutzman, the lunch lady.
Although I am not a child myself, I enjoyed every scene on stage. As an avid reader in both my childhood and adult life, I admired how well the cast and creative team adapted this well known piece of literature, into a fresh, new addition to the musical scene.
Opening songs such as Top-Secret Personal Beeswax had me and other attendees tapping our feet, whereas numbers like Gladys Gutzman and Lucille, Camille, Chenille, had each child giggling. As much as the show is intended for kids, as adults, we can take something from it also.The song When Life Gives You Lemons is meaningful to all ages, and tells us to always look on the bright-side, and if something is not working, change it.
The joy of musical theatre is that it brings you to a world that you can be yourself. Junie B. Jones: The Musical teaches kids that it is imperative to embrace your talents and be the best you can be. As I walked out when the curtain came down, I overheard several children beg their parents and guardians to get them a Junie B. Jones book from Toronto Public Library, as soon as they could. If a simple musical can encourage a child to pick up a book and read, then I can think of no better reason to bring your child or younger sibling to see this show.
If you wish to attend this musical before it ends on October 30th 2016, tickets can be purchased online by clicking HERE or can be got in the theatre box office at 100A Ossington Avenue. The final 4 performances are as follows:
Saturday October 22nd: 11am and 1pm
Sunday October 23rd: 11am and 1pm
Saturday October 29th: 11am and 1pm
Sunday October 30th: 11am and 1pm
I hope you all enjoy.