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Junie B. Jones shares tips on surviving school in Pittsburgh theatrical tour

| Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, 8:33 p.m.
(From left) Adam Overett, Mary Faber and Michael McCoy star in 'Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School.'
Carol Rosegg
(From left) Adam Overett, Mary Faber and Michael McCoy star in 'Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School.'
Annabelle Fox will play the lead role of Junie B. Jones in TheatreworksUSA's tour of 'Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School.'
Annabelle Fox will play the lead role of Junie B. Jones in TheatreworksUSA's tour of 'Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School.'

Actress Annabelle Fox has performed in a number of regional theaters in and around her hometown of Wilton, Conn.

Her latest role is that of Junie B. Jones in the TheatreworksUSA tour of “Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School,” a six-month tour that stops in Pittsburgh for several performances, including two at the Byham Theater, Downtown, and five at schools in the Pittsburgh area. It's presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as part of its Citizens Bank Children's Theater Series.

Fox says she's thrilled to be playing the title role in the musical production based on the best-selling children's books by Barbara Park. The series introduced young readers to Junie B. Jones, a cute and funny kindergartner whose “likes” include “pasketti and meatballs” and “dislikes” include classmate Tattletale May, roosters, clowns — “and ponies that stomple you to death.”

In “Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School,” the precocious youngster is a little older and a lot wiser — or so she thinks.

“Junie has lots of ideas, feelings and thoughts,” Fox says. “Her grand ideas get her into trouble a lot. She's writing a guide for children going to school based on what she has learned.”

As can be expected, her advice on everything from carpools to cookies, while good-intentioned, is often far-fetched and funny.

The show is “the most fun mini-full musical,” Fox says. “Even for parents, it's hysterical with a lot of wit. Kids will be engaged the whole time.”

There are some helpful messages for young audiences throughout the production, according to the actor, “things like, be true to who you are — something that kids need to hear,” she says.

Barbara Pasternak, artistic director for TheatreworksUSA, says the tour of “Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School” is fulfilling the theater company's mission of bringing quality theater to as many young people in the nation as possible for an affordable cost. Tickets for the Byham performances are $12, $10.50 in advance.

With five productions scheduled in and around the city, youngsters have a chance to catch the show close to home.

“Kids get to see their favorite characters on stage,” Pasternak says. “Often there's a run on the library books after the show comes to their school.”

“Junie B.” features a small cast of five Equity actors, all playing multiple roles. At just 60 minutes in length, the musical is recommended for audiences age 3 and up.

As for Fox, once the current tour ends this summer, she will be taking some time off to work on another big production — her wedding. She and her fiance, also an actor, will be getting married in October.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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