Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking my kids to see “Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business” at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. This Stage One production was a fun musical and very much enjoyed by my children.
I love going to the Kentucky Center. The staff and volunteers are pleasant and helpful, especially when you have children in tow. As soon as we came in from the parking garage we were greeted by a volunteer who wanted to be sure we knew where to go.
Stage One productions are held in the Bomhard Theater. As we walked up the stairs, my five year old daughter was taken by the “Divas Ascending” display. It’s an eye-catching exhibit of eight beautiful opera costumes from productions of the New York City Opera. They are suspended high in the Center’s atrium in the lobby. I’ve never seen anything like it. The exhibit is open to the public, free of charge through October 15, 2011. Stop in and check it out if you are in the area.
The auditorium was about ¾ full for this Sunday matinee. Just before the show began, we were given the basic “housekeeping” rules and some additional information about the Stage One season. This year they have performed four shows to about 80,000 people. Yum and The Horseshoe Foundation are the two underwriters mentioned, who have helped make the productions possible. Ticket prices are very reasonable at $12.50. School performances are also available for $6.25 and there is a free downloadable lesson plan for teachers.
I had not read any of the Junie B. Jones books (29 in all) prior to the show, but from the poster and description I thought it would be a fun outing for us. If you aren’t familiar with this story, “Junie B.”, as she prefers to be called, is in Kindergarten and finds out that she is going to have a baby brother who is “cute as a monkey.” Junie B. is very sassy and silly and gets into “pickles” on a regular basis.
The set was simple and worked well. There were areas for Junie B’s house, bedroom, school bus, classroom, playground, grandparents’ house, the principal’s office and the nursery…even though the baby doesn’t have a nurse.
The opening scene was a high energy song to introduce Junie B. and the other characters. Leslie Ann Handelman portrays the lead with great enthusiasm! She seemed to have as much energy as my five year old. After a short time I had forgotten she was an adult playing a child.
Lucille (one of Junie B’s best friends), played by Julie Dingman Evans, was darling. Ms. Evans had the little girl speech impediment down pat, it was very cute! Lucille’s song about marrying an “expensive prince” was precious and very funny.
Courtney Cleveland was cast as Junie B’s other best friend, Grace. Ms. Cleveland was convincing as the little girl who was probably the “best” friend.
After the show was over, the cast of characters hosted a “meet and greet” in the lobby. I’ve never seen so many little girls in skirts and hair bows waiting to get a picture taken or to have their book signed by one of the cast members. That was such a nice touch and appreciated by many.
Last night I bought and downloaded the book. I wanted to read it and see how much of the book made it to the stage. I was impressed with how Joan Cushing (author of the book, music and lyrics) turned some key thoughts into fun songs. I will point out that Junie B. says things are “stupid” and “dumb” a lot. She is corrected some on stage and much more in the book.
The production is aimed at children ages 5-8 and runtime was approximately 80 minutes. I took my five year old and my three year old. They both did very well and enjoyed the show. I watched my daughter (the five year old) watch the play. She smiled often, sat up and was attentive and laughed a lot. I asked her what she thought of the show and in her exact words, “It was awesome!” She wanted to stay and see it again.
I recommend “Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business.” There are still a couple showings left with good seats available on Saturday, May 14th at 11:00am and 2:00pm. You can call 502.498.2436 or visit http://www.kentuckycenter.org/Stage-One/10-11/Junie-B-Jones/6921#tab-show-information-link for more information and to purchase tickets.
Photo source: Roxane Haynes
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