The musical “Junie B. Jones” is a big hit with audiences everywhere and its Pine-Richland performances were no different.
“This is a musical that everyone loves -- parents and kids both,” said Pam Lieberman, executive director of the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater, sponsor of the production. “Junie B. is a lot like a real kid so things that she says resonate with parents.”
The show always attracts a large local audience and Thursday's two shows at Pine-Richland Middle School were no exception, she said. Both shows sold out early on.
"Junie B. Jones" is a Theatreworks USA production based on a series of books written by Barbara Park about a little girl’s first grade experiences.
The production was a collection of four musicals including: “Top-Secret Personal Beeswax: A Journal by Junie B (and Me!)”, “Junie B. First Grader (at Last!)”, “Junie B. Boss of Lunch,” and “Junie B. One-man Band,” according to a press release.
"Junie B." is geared for audiences age 5 and older and ends with the actors encouraging audience members to write down experiences of their own lives and keep a journal.
This is the third time the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater has brought "Junie B. Jones" to Pittsburgh audiences and it is always met with great enthusiasm.
The Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater was created in 1969 to bring the theater to suburban locations.
“A group of parents in the South Hills wanted to bring professional theater out to them in Mount Lebanon,” said Lieberman.
Lucky for folks in other suburban areas of Pittsburgh, the theater expanded to five locations plus downtown.
“It is a way for us to bring theater productions right to families in their own backyards,” she said. “They don’t have to drag their kids downtown and they can get home at a reasonable hour.”
Another advantage to the shows is the cost.
“It is affordable because we offer tickets that are far less than other shows because we have fundraisers to supplement ticket costs,” Lieberman explained. Advance tickets to "Junie B." were $9.50.
The Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater is an unusual program, according to Lieberman.
“The only one that we know of like this is in Japan. It is really a unique model of children’s theater,” she explained. “There are others that are matinee types, but ours is offered at nights and on the weekends for families.”
It isn’t easy bringing theater to the audiences.
“It is like putting a giant puzzle together – each show has its own scenery and each theater that we go to has its own setup. It can be quite complicated,” she said.
The Children's Theater enjoys traveling to Pine-Richland School District because its high school and middle school have good facilities to stage the productions, said Lieberman.
“They are great auditoriums and the group we work with there is fantastic,” she said. The Children's Theater has four productions in the district a year.
“The North Hills is such a great area and we pull from a big community for the shows,” she said.
Kristen Caplan of Shaler took her daughters, 7-year-old Lauryn and 4-year-old Lindsey, to the show.
“It was such a great show. I think the adults enjoyed it as much as the girls,” she said. “There was a lunch lady that was just like a lunch lady we had in school.”
Lindsey is a devoted reader of the Junie B. Jones books.
“As we were leaving she said, ‘I think I will start keeping a journal,'” said Caplan.
Although the Pine-Richland shows sold out early, there are still seats available for the "Junie B. Jones" shows at other Pittsburgh locations this weekend. Visit www.pgharts.org or 412-456-6666 for more information.