Junie B. Jones is back and doing the right thing in The Theatre Factory's latest production
There's a lesson to be learned in “Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook,” but young audience members might be too busy having fun to realize it.
The Theatre Factory's KidWorks production June 2-10 is a comedy by Allison Gregory based on the Junie B. Jones books by children's author Barbara Park. A favorite read for the elementary school set, Junie B. Jones is a hero kids can relate to — a kindergarten student who gets into all sorts of predicaments, but somehow always ends up doing the right thing.
In this story, Junie B. (played by Sophia Hoglund-McGuirk) is trying to track down the culprit who stole the furry mittens that her grandpa bought her. When she comes across a pen of many colors, she figures that she should keep it instead of looking for its rightful owner, since after all, there's that “finders keepers, losers weepers” rule.
Junie also is dealing with her feelings when a handsome new boy named Warren arrives at school, a boy that both she and her best friend, Grace, really like.
Jonathan Charles Heinbaugh of Irwin, a junior at Penn-Trafford High School, portrays the cute new guy in their class.
“Warren is just such an untouched character in the Junie B. Jones world,” Heinbaugh says. “He always seems to be there but he is often upstaged by Junie B. with her enthusiasm and sparkle. In this play, he receives a more developed story and even some jokes. He has a lot of heart.”
Warren really is just a likable character, the actor says, someone who is shy, but who just wants to be everybody's friend.
His challenge, Heinbaugh says, is in “being both super-happy and innocent but also having those overwhelming child-like meltdowns” that come with being a kid.
The happy ending comes when Junie B. learns a valuable lesson about not taking what doesn't belong to her and how being herself is the best way to make friends.
Rachel Painter of Greensburg says she wanted to direct this show because “children's books are a passion for me, and I thought I could help bring an iconic character to life.”
She directed another children's play, “Drac's Back” for Greensburg Civic Theatre, and has acted in other community theater shows, most recently in “Rumors” for Apple Hill Playhouse.
Heinbaugh's credits include his latest role as Kenickie in Penn-Trafford's musical production of “Grease.” He also has acted for Apple Hill and Stage Right and will be seen next as Don Price in the musical “Big Fish” at The Theatre Factory.
The cast of “Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook” also includes Amelia Bender, Grace Bender, Eliza Orlic, Griffin Dunn, Jared Miller, Roni Miller, Gia Marinucci and Charlotte Mankovich. Mike Crosby is stage manager.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.