Anyone familiar with the Barbara Park “Junie B. Jones” series of children’s books will understand why anyone with young children should not miss the opportunity to attend a performance of “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook”; presented by the Childsplay Theatre and performed at the Tempe Center for the Arts.
Before I get into my review of “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook” I would like to take a moment to acknowledge those who bring the magic of the stage alive and all the hard work that begins well before the actors ever take the stage. When I was chosen to be one of the family bloggers for the Childsplay Theatre, I was afforded the opportunity to take my family on a private behind the scene tour of the Childsplay Theatre workshop. We were able to see the costume, prop and set design process, from 2D full color renderings to the finished props, costumes and sets. We met Jim Luther the Prop Master and a 10 year veteran of the Childsplay Theatre and got a firsthand look at how he uses his experience and talent to create innovative ways to bring seemingly everyday items that would not easily be seen on stage to a scale that helps the story and becomes an integral tool for the actors on stage. A special note of praise should be given to all the set designers who brought the kindergarten school yard of Junie B. Jones to the stage. The set designs worked on every level, quickly morphing from school yard to school room or Principals office even Junie’s bedroom. Kudos to all the people behind the scenes, far too many to mention by name, who use their extensive creative talent to bring all the scenes to life and give the actors such a rich tapestry to work with.
Now on to the review, playwright Allison Gregory worked directly with author Barbara Park, prior to her passing, to develop the on stage adaptation of “Junie B. Jones”. “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook” is adapted from the Barbara Park books “Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren” and “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook”. Allison Gregory has succeeded in bringing the vivacious life of kindergartner Junie B. Jones from the author’s page to the theatrical stage.
The cast of actors who bring all the Junie B. Jones characters to life on stage do a fantastic job of opening up the mind of a kindergartner. Not just any kindergartner but Junie B. Jones, a confident, out spoken, imaginative and somewhat crazy kindergartner with a very unique sense of fashion. Kate Haas the actor who plays Junie B. Jones as well as Jamie Sandomire, Racquel McKenzie, Debra Stevens, Tommy Strawser, Vinny Chavez and Rudy Ramirez who play all of Junie’s schoolmates, teachers and mother all do a fantastic job of delivering the audience into the frenetic kindergarten world of Junie B. Jones. I especially liked how the positive message to kids was maintained and the moral of both original books were preserved in this theatrical adaptation. In addition to seeing their beloved Junie B. Jones brought to life on stage, I know my kids really enjoyed meeting and speaking with the actors after the performance. They enjoyed the performance so much they could not wait to share their experience with their school friends and teachers on Monday morning. The run time of the play is 70 minutes with no intermission, which I found to be perfect for our children ages 7 and 8. In all we had a wonderful family time at the theatre and encourage anyone with young children or grandchildren not to miss this wonderfully funny theatrical production. Take this opportunity to instill in your kids a lifelong love and appreciation for the theatrical arts, they will thank you for it.