Junie B. Jones is in kindergarten now and has to deal with a bully, a crybaby and now, she has a brand-new baby brother.
Junie hasn’t seen him, but her Grandma Miller tells her that the baby is the cutest little monkey she’s ever seen.
That does it. Junie goes to school and tells all her classmates that she’s getting a real, live monkey.
Written by Barbara Park, the book “Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business” was adapted into a musical by composer and lyricist Joan Cushing. Director Brenda May Ito says that Cushing stays true to the book and that’s important because the Junie B. Jones series is so popular.
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The show, which opens today at the Columbus State University Theater on the Park, is CSU’s annual touring show.
The entire cast is new to touring. It will travel as far north as North Georgia, as far west as Eufaula, Ala., as far east as Warner Robins, Ga., and as far south as Camden County, Ga. The production runs through the end of April.
“It’s a new year and a new adventure for everybody,” said April Hollingsworth, who is playing Junie’s mother as well as one of Junie’s best friends.
Most of the actors play multiple characters.
Sophomore Caroline Garcia plays Junie. A long-time Springer Theater Academy student, Garcia says she’s made the transition from the Springer Opera House to CSU with no problems.
“It’s awesome,” she said of her classes. “This department is great.”
Garcia said 5-year-old Junie is “spirited and kind of a brat.”
But even in her brattiest moments, Junie is endearing and at times sweet, Garcia said.
Junior Katie Salisbury is the tour and stage manager and will drive the van and trailer. She got certified to drive the van last week.
“Out of all of us, I trust Katie most of all,” said senior Jim Pharr, who plays four roles — Junie’s father, the school principal, crybaby William and Mrs. Gutzman.
After spending last semester observing students at a local middle school, Pharr said it’s been easy to get into his inner kindergartner to play the crybaby.
The only senior in the cast, he said the other cast members “literally look up to me because I’m the tallest.” The others jeered.
Most of the cast had read the Junie B. Jones books when they were in elementary school.
Except Chase Steven Anderson.
“I knew of them, but I only read ‘Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business’ about a week-and-a-half before rehearsals started,” Anderson said.
When he was in Barnes & Noble reading it, a mother and her daughter came in looking for a Junie B. Jones book. He thought it was funny that a 20-year-old man was reading the same book as a little girl.
“I liked those books,” Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth plays Lucille, one of Junie’s best friends, and is dressed like a princess, complete with star-tipped wand and tiara.
She’s used to the tiara because she’s the current Miss Columbus State University.
She’s also the baton coach for the show, though that’s not her pageant talent. Hollingsworth sings in competitions.