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Franklinton theater to stage 1st-grade shenanigans

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FRANKLINTON — Elementary and middle school students are bringing to life the cheeky fun of the “Junie B. Jones” books with song, dance and drama.

The Franklinton Area Community Theatre will hold three showings of “Junie B. Jones the Musical” this weekend. The first is tonight and will be followed by shows Saturday and Sunday.

Based on the popular Barbara Park books for children, the play tells the story of spirited first-grade girl Junie B. Jones. The production will feature music and dance numbers as Jones attends show and tell, interacts with her teacher “Mr. Scary” and learns she needs glasses.

“It’s a good show for the age we are trying to showcase,” said Lisa Lawrence, director and president of the Franklinton Area Community Theatre. “We in the fall typically show a show with our older kids ... and in the spring we do a show that focuses on younger kids. This is a good show to do that with. It’s a very family-friendly show.”

In the lead is sixth-grader Madilynn Sanders, who is joined on stage with other younger students and a few high schoolers. Twenty-two students, ranging in age from 4 to 18, are involved in the production, Lawrence said. Rehearsal began in January.

The show doesn’t run long and includes an intermission, so “it’s good for short attention spans,” said Windy Edwards, the musical director and theater vice president.

In November, the group will stage a longer, more serious show that features more high school students.

Lawrence and Edwards say students who participate in live theater experience a range of benefits.

“It gives the kids a chance to express themselves,” Edwards said. “It gives them a good hobby.”

And when high school students work with younger actors, both groups learn. Edwards said the students are happy to help each other out at rehearsal and easily come together as one group.

Seniors like Kassidy Griffon, who is a lead choreographer, and Chase Tharrington, who continues to act and lead other students, have been involved with the community theater since elementary school, Lawrence said.

“It’s really nice when kids join young and stay with us because when you get into high school there are so many things that push them in different directions and we’re just glad these two stuck with us,” Lawrence said.

Both directors also emphasized that both shows are community events and involve multiple working parts. Parents, businesses and local citizens are instrumental in keeping the nonprofit alive, they said.

“This is truly a community theater so we have parents working backstage,” Lawrence said. “We have a lot of support throughout our community in ad sales and attendance. The community around Youngsville really comes and supports us.”

Admission is charged to cover the cost of production, but on Tuesday several free shows were given to area students, many of whom may not have had an opportunity to see live theater before, Edwards said.

Tickets for this weekend’s show can be bought at the door or online at factnc.org.

Want to go?

What: “Junie B. Jones the Musical”

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Franklin High School. 910 Cedar Creek Road, Franklinton

Cost: Adults $10, students $7, children under 5 free

More info: Visit factnc.org

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