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YouTheatre’s ‘Junie B. Jones’ gets into the holiday spirit

Production opens Friday at the Egyptian Theatre

Jingle bells/Batman smells/Robin laid and egg…”

While it’s a fun song with its original words, “Jingle Bells” upped the whimsy with its replacement verses that reference DC Comics making the song a favorite joke for many.

That whimsy is found in this weekend’s YouTheatre production of “Junie B. Jones First Grader: ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’” at the Egyptian Theatre, director Matthew Sincell said.

“The play is written about a group of first graders and the title captures the spirit of the playfulness of what the play is about,” Sincell said. “Anyone looking for some laughs and to get into the holiday spirit should come see the play. And any kid or adult who are familiar with the series will recognize all the characters in this particular play.”

The production, written by Allison Gregory, is based on the “Junie B. Jones” book series written by Barbra Park.

The story is about a first-grader named Junie B. Jones who is looking forward to her school’s Secret Santa gift exchange, but another student, May, tries to ruin everything.

“People who are familiar with Junie B. Jones knows she is a precocious first grader,” Sincell said. “In fact, the play is about a room full of precocious first graders, so you know this will be fun.”

“Junie B. Jones First Grader: ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” is great for a YouTheatre production, because there are a lot of kids in the show.

“Many of them have been in productions before, but there are also a few kids that are first timers in a show this size,” Sincell said. “And I think that’s one of the great things, because it brings a lot of different age groups and schools together.”

There are 19 kids involved in the production — 19 girls and one “brave” boy, Sincell said.

“Our youngest is 9 and our oldest is 15,” he said.

There is a lot to be learned from the younger actors and from the older ones, he said.

“Any time we can get groups of kids together to communicate, have fun and feel like they are part of a team is always a positive thing,” Sincell said.

Along with the actors, there are kids who will also run the light board, the soundboard, the projections and be part of the backstage crew.

“It’s an enormous responsibility and there are some kids who haven’t run a sound board or a light board before, so there is a certain amount of anxiety,” Sincell said. “But at the end of the day, they are willing to take on the responsibility and be a part of the show.”

In many ways, being on the tech crew is a thankless job.

“They aren’t the ones who take the bows, but at the same time, they show can’t happen without them,” Sincell said. “They have a lot of their plates to learn in a few rehearsals before we go live in front of audiences.”

The actors started rehearsing in September and the rehearsals started including the tech crew this past week.

“For this last month, we have been rehearsing three times a week,” Sincell said. “With kids being so busy, it was a challenge putting together a workable rehearsal schedule. But it has worked out well for all who are involved.”

The director has noticed significant changes in the kids during the past three months.

“It’s been great seeing some of the kids, who are more shy than others, come out of their shells and take on these characters, become larger than life and have a good time,” he said. “This is a hard thing to ask of a pre-teen kid. I think that’s another valuable contribution of theatre.”

Sincell was introduced to theater when he was young, but didn’t consider acting until he was in junior high.

“I continued through college and got my degree in acting,” he said. “I lived in New York
City for 10 years.”

The thing that keeps bringing him back to theater is the sense of community that surrounds each project.

“I also think there is something to be said about the performances,” Sincell said. “It depends on whose in the audience and how the kids are feeling. A performance is never the same night after night.”

Sincell, who is friends with the Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program director Jamie Wilcox, has taught the YouTheatre camps for the past couple of years.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of these kids through these classes,” he said. “So, when Jamie asked me to come on board for the production, I was absolutely delighted to attempt to steer this ship.”

YouTheatre will present “Junie B. in ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’” on Dec. 9-10 at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Evening curtain is 7 p.m. and there is a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $9 to $14 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.


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