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Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011

Junie B.'s Enjoyable Mayhem at First Stage

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Even the youngest children in the family are sure to enjoy the latest Junie B. story, Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, at First Stage Children's Theater. As Junie B. fans know, this precocious, mischievous and sometimes sassy little girl is fond of creating mayhem. Jingle Bells is set in Junie B.'s first-grade classroom. It is a few days before the holiday break, and all the kids are getting a bit antsy. In the first scene, younger viewers will be captivated by the students' graphic description of a boy who threw up in the classroom on the previous day.

Junie B.'s nemesis, tattletale May, is always ratting out Junie B., much to the exasperation of the class teacher, Mr. Scary (Todd Denning). While attempting to maintain order in the classroom, he demonstrates the patience of a saint—or a first-grade classroom teacher.

The play is by Allison Gregory, based on the popular book series by Barbara Park. This latest Junie B. tale follows First Stage's 2009 Junie B. production, A Little Monkey Business.

In all First Stage productions, children's roles are double cast. The Jingle cast was impressive. Mallorey Wallace is a talented sixth-grader who delights as Junie B. No less stellar is Gaby Musickant as the bossy May. The two girls share the stage with more than a half-dozen other students. As Jose, Charles Kelley was a trouper despite having a noticeable cold. Preston Carr was a scene-stealer as Sheldon, the kid who has a wry comment for everything ("That reminds me of my aunt, who was a cook in prison"). The adult actors remain the same for all performances. In addition to Denning, they include Beth Mulkerron and Rick Richter. Mulkerron makes the most of several roles, especially as a PTO president who has organized a school "gift shop" for the holidays. Adults may find themselves laughing at her performance more than the kids. Jeff Frank directs.

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
continues at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through Dec. 29.
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