By Mary Boyle
If you've ever had a Kindergartner or a first-grader in your life, then you may have had the pleasure of reading the wonderfully quirky and hilariously funny adventures of one Junie B. Jones, in the book series written by Barbara Park. At last, First Stage has taken on the challenge of bringing Junie B. to the stage with JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK.
Playwright Allison Gregory read the Junie B. series to her own child ("at least 800 times"), and fell in love with the humor and the honesty. "Junie B. says what’s on her mind, tries things that she will fail at, and doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about how she comes off. She is blatantly, boldly flawed. I wish I were half as awesome as her," said Gregory.
The play combines two of Park's books: Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook and Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren. Junie B. (Selma Rivera/Molly Domski) and her best friends, Lucille (Tessa Benedic/GraceFisher) and "that" Grace (Erianna Ashmore-Purifoy/Faith Austin) have met a new boy in school, "handsome" Warren (Ryon Davis/Carson Pressley), and each of the girls is determined to get his attention. Unfortunately, Warren's first impression of Junie B. is that she's a "nutball." If that wasn't bad enough, someone has stolen Junie B.'s brand new furry black mittens! Kindergarten isn't easy.
Directed by James Fletcher, and featuring Kay Allmand as both Junie B's mom and her teacher ("Mrs., and that's all"), and Dan Katula as both Grandpa Frank and the Principal, Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook explores the truth about "finders keepers," and what it really takes to make a friend. Junie B. is, perhaps, the realest fictional Kindergartner you'll ever meet; consequently, adults either find her hysterical or annoying. If you're already a fan of Junie B., you will likely enjoy seeing her come to life on the stage; if you are new to Junie B., try to remember what it is like to be 5 years old, and be prepared to laugh.
JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK runs April 28th - June 4th, 2017 at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N Water Street in Milwaukee, WI 53202. Tickets are available by calling (414) 273-7206 or online at www.firststage.org.
About First Stage
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in the 2016-2017 season, First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young audiences and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs use theater to promote active learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students throughout southeastern Wisconsin each year. In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. First Stage is the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award in 2013 and 2015, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts. First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).