SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK LIVE JR
Originally Conceived and Directed by Scott Ferguson
Music and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Kathy Mandry, George Newall,
and Tom Yohe
Book by Scott Ferguson, Kyle Hill, and George Keating
Director/Choreographer – Jeremy Dumont
Music Director – James McQuillen
Scenic Design – Katie Dill
Costume Design – Tammy Spencer
Lighting Design – Samuel Rushen
Sound Design – Kyle McCord
Stage Manager – Christina Nottingham
Properties – Maria Leon
Dori – Monique Abry
Tom – Christopher J. Deaton
Dina – Alyssa Gardner
Joe – Zak Reynolds
George – Rashaun Sibley
Shulie – Laura Wetsel
Reviewed Performance: 2/6/2016
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
From 1973 to 1985 a musical phenomenon interrupted my generation's childhood cartoons. How many of us got through high school because of these songs being embedded in our brains? We all have our favorites: “Three is a Magic Number,” “Conjunction Junction,” or “Interplanet Janet.” Then, in 1996, a new stage show based on the interstitials premiered, bringing nostalgia to parents and introducing a new generation to a fun musical way to learn.
Casa Manana brings School House Rock Live Jr to the people. Because it's the Junior version it's a simple to follow, quick production aimed at an audience under 10-years-old. With a 15 minute intermission the show runs a little over an hour and includes some fun audience participation, including a test over what was taught at the end.
Katie Dill's scenic design resembles the largest, most elaborate kindergarten classroom imaginable complete with an alphabet header across the top. There are multiple shelves holding various classroom like decorations; a Statue of Liberty, busts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, a map of the solar system, a globe, etc … Also, there are several steps, ramps, and ladders to reach the various levels of the set. These provide many opportunities for entrances, exits, and movements.
The costumes by Tammy Spencer did a good job of defining different characters. Everybody in vivacious, solid colors, except the character of Tom, the teacher, who is in drab brown pants and shoes and a white shirt. The costumes for the other five characters pulled inspiration from the different decades since School House Rock premiered.
The most interesting lighting choice came at the beginning of Interplanet Janet. All stage lights are off and four of the actors wave large flashlights at the ceiling. It effectively produced a creepy, other worldly effect that led the audience into a lesson on the solar system. Flashlights were also used, but only on a dimmed stage, during Unpack Your Adjectives.
An ensemble cast takes turns guiding the audience, or “class,” from song to song. The show uses recorded music. James McQuillen did a great job ensuring the cast is prepared vocally and rhythmically. All of the cast's performances are lively with exaggerated movements to play toward their target audience. Rashaun Sibley does particularly well with his homage to James Brown during Conjunction Junction. He removes his jacket, scoots along the floor while singing, is covered with his coat and fanned by Monique Abry and Alyssa Gardner, only to spring back to life to finish the song. It is humorous and appreciated by audience members of all ages.
School House Rock Live Jr at Casa Manana is a great show for the whole family and worth taking children, or grandchildren, to see and share.
SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK LIVE JR
Casa Manana, 3101 W Lancaster Ave, Ft. Worth, TX 76107
Runs through February 21st
Friday performances at 7pm
Saturday performances at 1:00pm and 5:00 pm
Sunday performances at 2:00 pm
Tickets prices range from $16 to $35. For tickets and info go to www.casamanana.org or call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.