From Page to Stage, Junie B. Cast Album Entertains
THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW had a character that would appear from time to time. He would always introduce himself by saying, “It’s me! It’s me! It’s Ernest T!”
I’m referring of course to Ernest T. Bass, played by venerable actor Howard Morris; a character that was a fun, boisterous, and self-confident, and you couldn’t wait to see what he’d get into next. Well...It's she! It’s she! It’s Junie B.! And Just like Ernest T., if you had ever read one of Barbara Park’s series of books to your child, or along with your child on your own, then you were smitten by a young girl with the same attributes that you couldn’t wait to see what she would do next.
Junie B. Jones was my daughter’s favorite series as she was growing up (and the same age as Junie). I can remember the excitement of seeing a new one at the store and the fun of reading it and talking about her exploits, and the anticipation of when will the next one be coming out.
Well, of course, time waits for no one, and while Junie B. aged slowly my daughter grew up and into other things. However, we all still talk about the enjoyment of how much fun those books were for us to read.
Now Junie B. is a musical, and I had the opportunity to review the cast album.
With songs written by the multi- (and I mean multi-) award-winning team of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, I couldn’t wait to hear what their talent would do to the likes of Junie B.
And what did they do you, might ask?
Magic. That’s what they did.
Now, I had no clue as to what the musical was about, other than being about Junie B. Jones. But the songs on this CD (fifteen in all), although only about 30 minutes in length total, are so well-crafted that by the end you know what the play was about--and you want to see it!
From the first song, when Junie B. gets this book that is full of blank pages and learns it is for her to put in whatever she wants--her own top secret personal beeswax, as she calls it--through the body of songs that takes her through first grade. The album touches on everything you would expect to experience in first grade, song by song. From riding a bus to school and sitting next to someone new for the first time, show and tell, music, art class, kickball games, old friend/new friend issues, to even discovering that she needs glasses. And bringing it all together at the end is a lovely song where she realizes that all she has gone through, all the emotions, successes and fears, can be recorded in her diary.
This is the first opportunity I’ve had to listen to grown-ups sing as kids since YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN, and the cast here is first-rate and fun. You can just feel the fun they have singing their songs, and in many ways I hear similarities between the two (although you couldn’t pick two more totally opposite personalities than Charlie Brown and Junie B.) There are similarities in the innocence of the lyrics, and the honesty of the feelings that, even though geared toward kids, adults will relate, and remember and enjoy it immensely as well.
The musical accompaniment and arrangement of the songs are a wonderful mix of what I hear as GREASE (Junie’s a little bit of Sandra Dee and Roz) with its doo-wop beats, and HELLO DOLLY (Sheldon Potts reminds me of the character Cornelius Hackl) and its musical big orchestral/musical arrangements.
There is something for everyone, and at 30 minutes in length you can listen to it on the trip back and forth to the grocery store. But I know one thing (or two, for that matter): if you’re a fan of Junie B. Jones, you’ll enjoy this; if your kids are fans, they are going to love this; and if you don’t know Junie B. because you have no kids yet, you can get a jump on it, for, unlike a lot of other kids series out there, it is as much fun to read and see where there are characters like Junie B. get into next.
If I had to pick my favorite songs, I would have to say they would be “Top Secret Personal Beeswax,” “You Need Glasses,” “Gladys Gutzman” (who doesn’t love the venerable lunch lady?), and “Writing Down The Story Of My Life.” But they are all sweet and fun to listen to. One might say I love the whole ball of wax. Or is it beeswax?
Songs on the CD:
Top Secret Personal Beeswax
Lucille, Camille, Chenille
You Can Be My Friend
Time To Make A Drawing
You Need Glasses
Show And Tell
Now I See
Gladys Gutzman, Queen Of Snacks
Sheldon Potts’ Halftime Show
When Life Gives You Lemons
Kickball Tournament (Reprise)
When Life Gives You Lemons (Reprise)
Writing Down The Story Of My Life
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