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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

‘Conjunction Junction’ Live

Soulstice rocks the Schoolhouse

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A group of remarkably long-lived animated educational shorts gets another look this summer as Soulstice Theatre presents a staging of Schoolhouse Rock Live! Directed by Jillian Smith and Char Manny, the production holds appeal for kids unfamiliar with the original animations as well as those of us from Generation X who actually grew up watching the shorts on network TV.

Manny and Smith put together a show that mixes adults with a large group of child actors ranging pretty dramatically in age, talent and experience. Josh Perkins plays a nervous teacher preparing for his first day of classes with the help of a colorful group of people playing ideas that are singing and dancing around in his head.

More than a dozen people are onstage in a studio theater environment going through more than a dozen songs that don’t necessarily have any direct connection to each other. It can feel kind of like a weird mishmash of different thoughts and ideas, but Manny and Smith do a really good job of pulling it all together into a cohesive performance.

A large degree of the production’s success lies in the way that Manny and Smith have brought the fun of the production to the stage. The vibrant staging includes many little interactions between characters in the background. So even when things feel a bit weak in the center of the stage, there’s always something clever playing out around the edges. The production is at its best when everything onstage links up in an enjoyable harmony. In what is probably the best song in the production, Perkins leads a finely tuned ensemble in a surprisingly dynamic performance of “Conjunction Junction.”

Soulstice Theatre’s production of Schoolhouse Rock Live! runs through Aug. 10 at the Keith Tamsett Theater. For tickets, call 414-481-2800.