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Theater

Greensburg Civic Theatre promises holiday treat with 'Junie'

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
The cast of Greensburg Civic Theatre’s production of “Junie B in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” Dec. 14-15 at Greensburg Garden and Civic Center includes (front, from left) Audrey Johnson, Ryann Shirey, Katie Dunlap; (back) Mandy Onde and Angie Lavelle.
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The cast of Greensburg Civic Theatre’s production of “Junie B in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” Dec. 14-15 at Greensburg Garden and Civic Center includes (front, from left) Audrey Johnson, Ryann Shirey, Katie Dunlap; (back) Mandy Onde and Angie Lavelle.

Junie B. Jones is a rock star to the early elementary school set.

Kids have been reading Barbara Park’s best-selling book series for more than 20 years, delighting in the antics of an energetic little girl and her kindergarten and first-grade adventures.

Greensburg Civic Theatre has a holiday treat in store for its young audiences Dec. 14-15 when it brings Junie B. and her friends to the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center stage for its Greasepaint Players’ production of “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” by Allison Gregory.

In the show based on the children’s book series, Junie B. (played by Ryann Shirey of Greensburg) is super excited about her school’s upcoming Holiday Sing-Along and Secret Santa gift exchange until her rival, May Murkee, or “Tattletale May” as Junie calls her, spoils her fun.

“May tends to antagonize Junie, tattling on her at every chance she gets. And Junie nearly always retaliates,” says Audrey Johnson of Greensburg, a freshman musical theater major at Seton Hill University who portrays May.

Johnson says May is unlike the other kids in the play because she doesn’t really have any friends, and Christmas is the one time of year she feels a sense of belonging.

Adults play kids

A fun part of this show is that both kids and adults are cast in the roles of children.

Becky Ziegler Koch is directing a cast of 12 that ranges in age from 5 to adult.

“While this is a kids’ show, the lead characters are all played by older teens and adults,” she says. “I did this mostly because of the complexity of the characters and the high-paced script and also because it adds an element of fun to watch ‘big people’ play ‘little people.’”

Koch says she wanted to direct the play because “I love the Junie B. Jones series of books. I read them with my daughter when she was little. I knew it would be a popular show and would be great entertainment for the whole family.”

She moved to Greensburg from York and has been acting, teaching and directing theater in Westmoreland County for the past 17 years. Most recently she directed “Jungle Book Kids” at the Theatre Factory in Trafford in August and performed in “Jekyll and Hyde” at Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale in October.

High-energy show

“It’s my job to create the characters everyone has been creating in their heads as they read the books,” she says of “Junie B.” “The show is also high-energy since the characters in the cast are all six years old. They have to keep up the mannerisms of young children for the entire show.”

The cast also features Becca Mitchell and Katie Dunlap of Latrobe, Angie Lavelle of Derry, William White of Scottdale, Mandy Onder of Charleroi, Liam Mitchell of Latrobe and John Paul Ritchey, Callie Shirey, Tanner Shirey and Layla Klosky of Greensburg.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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