“Junie B. is not some ideal, perfect child. She’s very flawed, and it’s okay to be flawed and to be different. The big message is about friendship and figuring out how to be enough by being yourself and how to make that work in life.” – Sarah DeNight
Marketing intern, Marissa Roney and social media strategist, Sophie Pauline sat down with Sarah DeNight, choreographer of “Junie B. Jones, The Musical” for an interview regarding her experience playing Junie B. Jones with the New York-based company, Theatreworks USA.
From locations in Canada all the way down to Florida, Sarah DeNight, along with the rest of the cast of Theatreworks USA’s production of “Junie B. Jones” energetically shared the relatable story of a quirky first-grader who realizes that “she can be liked for being exactly who she is.”
DeNight starred in a six-month tour of “Junie B. Jones,” portraying the zany, often misunderstood, first-grade bookworm, a character that she relates to a great deal. When asked how she got into the mind of a first grader for performances, she explained that Junie B.’s mindset didn’t venture far from her own first-grade mindset. DeNight said, “I just remember kind of being like Junie B., being really rowdy and loud and being in my own world, so that wasn’t really that hard to tap into.” She added, “It was definitely a lot of Junie but it was a little bit of me as well so that was cool.”
The Summer Stage alum also revealed that upon receiving the role of Junie B. Jones she rented out all the books from the series out of her local library and reread them all. Reading is one of DeNight’s favorite pastimes and she recommends that audiences read up on Junie B. in order to connect to the show more. “For me, reading is one of my favorite things to do with my mom, so that’s a cool thing,” DeNight said.
Summer Stagers will take the stage to perform the musical with the exact same script and musical numbers that DeNight rehearsed so many times before. The once Junie B. Jones said, “It’s really tough and they’re doing a great job with it. There was no recording, which was crazy, so Jackie [the musical director for Junie B.] and I kind of had to play off of each other and fill in the blanks.”
However, the version seen on stage this week will feature a lot more people than the version DeNight performed in. Theatreworks USA‘s production enlisted just six actors, all playing multiple parts except the actress who played Junie B. Jones. DeNight recalls how two male actors played the characters of Camille and Chanille, who in Summer Stage’s production are played by female actors. She said, “That was amazing, the guys coming out as the twins in these huge cupcake dresses and curly wigs and kids lost their minds because it was so funny.”
DeNight also worked with director Brian Walsh to make the Summer Stage production a positively different one than the production she starred in. DeNight said, “It definitely took a lot of love from Brian and I really wanted his direction because I really wanted it to be different. She added, “I was so hard on myself on it being different from my show. There may be some familiar things from mine and theirs, but I think for the most part it’s different, which is a testament to the team and the kids.”
While wrapping things up DeNight said, “I think the biggest takeaway is that Junie B. is not some ideal, perfect child. She’s very flawed, and it’s okay to be flawed and to be different. That instantaneous friendship that kids are able to have, that unconditional thing, I think we forget about as we grow up. The big message is about friendship and figuring out how to be enough by being yourself, and how to make that work in life.”
DeNight meaningfully concluded, “I think it’s really cool to see a little girl figuring out how to live in the world, figure out problems and her temper as well as her wild spirit all on top of finding out that she can be liked for being exactly who she is.”
– Marissa Roney