by Terrance Mc Arthur
“Conjunction Junction, What’s your function?”
“I’m just a Bill, Sitting here on Capitol Hill.”
“We, The People, in order to form a more perfect union….”
Okay, confess. How many of you are singing along as you read this? If you are, you should head over to The Voice Shop, 1296 N. Wishon Ave, for Shine! Theatre’s Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr. If you aren’t singing, see the show anyway, and you’ll soon be singing.
Of course you remember Schoolhouse Rock. Starting in 1973, its three-minute short cartoons helped generations of kids memorize the times tables and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. It taught science, history, economics, and grammar. What we have here is a greatest-hits collection of the songs, energetically performed by a young cast. On the first day of school, new teacher Ms. Kelly (Kelly Davis) is visited by tie-dye-clad children representing parts of her personality, who show her that what she learned from the animated TV segments can make her a terrific teacher and brings fun to the fundamentals of learning.
The good times begin even before you enter the recently renovated Voice Shop performance area. In the lobby, brightly painted cutouts with face holes invite you to take selfies as Interplanet Janet, the Conjunction Junction engineer, or with Bill, the wannabe law, and there are coloring pages, too. The theatre walls are decorated with interjections, multiples of 3, and the Constitution, while Janet hangs above the stage. This pulls you back from your adult world into childhood memories, and you find yourself humming songs and murmuring catchphrases in anticipation of the show.
Davis, of the locally produced horror film The Gallows, is winning and cheery as the apprehensive teacher who remembers how to be a big kid again as she enters into the spirit of her cartoon curriculum. She sings, talks as she interacts with her mini-hers, and cuts a mean jitterbug. She is a strong framework for the other players to look to for guidance.
Her supporting octet of youngsters ranges in ages from 7 to early teens. Arabella Howard is delightful and self-assured as she unpacks her adjectives, and stands out in any number. Chloe Tabor is perky as she dances “The Circulation” with Davis, pigtails bouncing, and as she scoots around the stage during Interplanet Janet’s tour of the Solar System. Mona Rising stirs The Melting Pot and shouts out the joy of Interjections. Young Alex Colman acts appropriately mournful as the idea struggling to become a law in “I’m Just a Bill.”
Director Tony Sanders is committed to giving each performer moments of attention, moments to Shine! Enjoy the show, and during intermission, enjoy ‘donuts with benefits’ from Donut Fantasy, topped with everything from crushed Oreos to marshmallows to Gummi bears. Performances are April 1-16. Tickets are $12.50; $7.50 for students and seniors.
By the way, the expanded Voice Shop set-up is pretty impressive. I look forward to more shows and the training offered there. For more information about Shine! check out their website.
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