“Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” – Childsplay

This review aired on KBAQ December 3, 2012


Childsplay, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Childsplay brings back the charming “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” that gives young audiences a delightful holiday show while providing a valuable lesson about dispensing with animosities.  The show reinforces the positive aspects that such behavior guarantees.

The production is flawless with fine performances by Childsplay regulars who excel in telling simple but significant stories in interesting productions.  The play is based on a local author’s popular children’s book series.

Junie B. Jones has a major nemesis in May, another girl in her first grade class who has a reputation as a whiny tattletale.  The two hate each other.  When the class teacher, Mr. Scary, has his students pick names for a Secret Santa gift exchange, things go amiss because Junie B. draws May’s name.  At first, Junie B. wants to give May a lump of coal but, at the last minute, gives May a present she bought for herself.  The present impresses May who gives Junie B. something she really wants so both feuding girls end up happy.  Giving more details would spoil the show for future audiences.

The play presents a wonderful message about the importance of letting bad feelings about others fly away especially at this festive time of the year.  The play further suggests the consequences of perpetuating negative feelings.

There’s not a misstep in David Saar’s impeccable production from his snappy staging to a wonderful cast of adult actors who succeed brilliantly in playing young children.  Katie McFadzen is a charming Junie B.  McFadzen is full of spunk while using vibrant childish antics and thinking.  Debra K. Stevens is the perfect May who is not the most pleasant of children but when treated with respect and compassion, it allows her to conquer her vengeance.  Dwayne Hartford plays the only adult as Mr. Scary, the teacher, with just the right amount of knowing compassion as he instructs his students what is right.  Kate Haas’ uppity Lucille, Jon Gentry’s studious Herb, Ricky Araiza’s forgotten Jose, and Michael Peck’s over thinking Sheldon, are very convincing as the other kids.

If you have small children, taking them to “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” will give them a different kind of festive holiday show to enjoy while making them think seriously about disliking others.

“Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” is a welcome entry among the many local holiday offerings because it entertains joyously but leaves kids with positive reinforcement to always be nice to other children.  It continues through December 23 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.  For tickets, call the Childsplay box office at 480-921-5703 or order tickets online at www.childsplayaz.org.

Grade: A