Stage 62 to premier ‘Junie B. Jones’ at Carnegie Free Library
Losing that first baby tooth. Becoming a big sibling. Starting the first grade. All are milestones of childhood that, for 26 years and counting, young readers have been able to experience alongside sassy fictional first-grader Junie B. Jones.
Written by Barbara Parker, the Junie B. books have sold tens of millions of copies the world over and have been translated into more than a dozen languages, according to publisher Random House. The books also inspired a musical adaptation called “Junie B. Jones: The Musical” that will premier this week at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.
“It’s basically Junie B’s journey through the first grade,” said Laura Barletta, who stars as Junie in Stage 62’s adaptation of the show.
The musical draws on elements from several books in the series, Barletta said. Children who have read them, she said, will be delighted by the show, while newcomers should find it a great point of entry to the series.
Seth Laidlaw, who plays Junie B.’s crush, Herbert, said the show centers around many of the same timeless themes as the perennially popular books.
“I think there’s some strong lessons that stay true that we want to give to a younger audience,” he said. “Encouraging literacy, writing and continuing to pick up a book and read.”
In bringing Parker’s story to life, the Stage 62 production outfit has created a brightly colored set for the show that evokes children’s storybook illustrations. The black and white patches of Junie B.’s trusty composition notebook blot the stage’s flats.
Members of the 13-person cast said although the show was written for children, parents should find its poppy score catchy as well. Barletta said the hope is that younger attendees will take up an interest not only in the books, but in theater as well.
“Sometimes, children’s theater is underestimated,” she said. “It is so important, and I think it’s just so relevant to everybody. The fact that little kids can come and see live theater, it’s so important for them to get introduced to that at a very young age.”
“Junie B. Jones: The Musical” will be performed at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 and 15 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 9, 10, 16 and 17. Ticket information can be found at www.stage62.org.
Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributor.