Junie B. Jones has to face a lot of moral and social quandaries for a 5-year-old. Who took her furry black mittens, should she be able to keep a multi-ink pen she found, should she compete against her best friends for the attentions of handsome new student Warren, and how should she best pursue a friendship with him? Fortunately, she works her way through these issues in a winning manner in the wonderfully fun production of Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook at Adventure Theatre MTC.
Juniper Beatrice “Junie B.” Jones (Megan Graves) attends kindergarten with her two best friends, the speedy Grace (Natasha Gallop) and the well-dressed Lucille (Sophie Schulman). Other students are her boyfriend Ricardo (Chris Galindo) and her nemesis Meanie Jim (Marquis Gibson). Junie receives guidance at school from her teacher “Mrs.” (Jessica Lauren Ball) and the Principal (Keith Richards), and at home from Mother and Grandpa Frank (Ball & Richards again).
The equilibrium in Junie B.’s life is upset when Handsome Warren comes to the school. All of the girls like him, but Junie B. is hurt when her quirky behavior causes Warren to describe her as an “nutball.” Then, her favorite furry mittens disappear, which makes it even harder for her to compete for Warren’s attention against the wealthy and well-dressed Lucille. What should she do?
Junie B. Jones is an hilarious character who is energetic, exasperating, and most of all, lovable. Both she and her thoughts often whir about in constant motion, and she shares them aloud for the rapt audience members.
Megan Graves is a comedic force of nature playing Junie B. Jones, the quirky hero of the late Barbara Park’s series of books that have sold over 60 million copies. This production marks the 25th anniversary of the Junie B. Jones books and it is hard to imagine anyone portraying Junie B. in a more enjoyable and convincing manner than Ms. Grages. Her child-like demeanor and energy are astounding.
It is hard to believe that Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook represents Rick Hammerly’s first time directing a children’s production. He has a natural feel for every characteristic that makes a children’s production entertaining, and he delivers with the help of a large and talented artistic team.
Lots of motion and energy? Check. Involvement of the audience by the characters? Check. Original music with a singalong portion? Check. Amusing sound effects? Check. Bright colors in the set, the costumes, the props, and the electric lighting? Check. Most of all, convincing actors who earn the interest and empathy of audience members of all ages? Triple-check.
Junie B Jones is Not a Crook
closes August 14, 2017
Details and tickets
It’s a strong cast overall, but a lot of stage time is given to her two best friends, Grace and Lucille. Both Natasha Gallop and Sophie Schulman are able to embody some of the less desirable traits of their characters (such as competitiveness and a childish self-centeredness), while still being convincing and likeable friends. In the reviewed performance, understudy Jonathan Miot also played a charismatic yet sensitive Handsome Warren.
Aside from the entertainment value of the show, adults can feel good about taking children to this Junie B. Jones for its instructive moral messages and a diverse cast. Further, the play is clever enough to charm all ages.
This production of Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook is momentous for several reasons. It concludes the 65th season of Adventure Theatre MTC and the 10th season with Michael J. Bobbitt as Artistic Director. Most importantly, this production and Megan Graves’ spirited performance rank among the most pleasing that this reviewer has seen in children’s theatre.
Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook by Allison Gregory based upon the book series by Barbara Park. Directed by Rick Hammerly. Featuring Jessica Lauren Ball, Chris Galindo, Natasha Gallop, Marquis Gibson, Meagan Graves, Elliott Kashner, Keith Richards, and Sophie Schulman. Movement Director: Elena Day. Choreographer: Michael J. Bobbitt. Costume Designer: Eric Abele. Scenic Designer: Douglas Clarke. Lighting Designer: Jason Arnold. Sound Designer: Kenny Neal. Music Composer: Todd Robinson. Props & Puppets Designer: Andrea “Dre” Moore. Stage Manager: Donna Reinhold. Assistant Stage Manager: Erica Feidelseit. Master Electrician: Will Voorhies. Scenic Charge: Amy Kellett. Produced by Adventure Theatre MTC. Reviewed by Steven McKnight.