Two Waco stages will offer different, family-friendly takes on the Christmas season this weekend and coming week. At the Jubilee Theatre, a first-grader’s unfiltered view of life and those around her provides a fresh and funny look at the holidays in “Junie B. and Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.” It’s primarily adults on the stage, singing and dancing, for the Waco Civic Theatre’s “The Most Wonderful Show Of The Year.”
The Junie B. of the Jubilee Theatre production is Junie B. Jones, the irrepressible first grader of Barbara Park’s popular children’s book series. In “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” — adapted from the book of almost the same title (it adds “(P.S. So Does May)”) — Junie B is miffed at classmate May for tattling on her, only to draw May’s name in the class’s Secret Santa gift-giving.
Time for revenge? Junie B fans know the answer and a sense of the ending, as well, as Junie B’s elaborate and careful planning always unravels in the limitations of first-grader logic.
For Jubilee Theatre director Afton Foreman, whose son Adyn has a copy of the book, discovering that a play existed of the book put it at the top as a family Christmas show for the Jubilee. “As soon as we saw that, we had to do it,” she said. “And it’s almost word for word from the book.”
Foreman has an eight-person cast for the Jubilee Theatre play, five drawn from Mission Waco’s afterschool theater program. Students had to learn a monologue and how to audition to try out for the cast with participation contingent on passing grades at school and good behavior — which they did. “With ‘Junie B,’ it’s been a really fun process,” she said.
Debuting at the Waco Civic Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday is “The Most Wonderful Show Of The Year.” It’s new because the WCT’s mid-December holiday show for the last two years has been Belton actor Paul Q-pek’s one-man “The Story of Scrooge.” Q-pek, however, took a job earlier in the year with Disney and moved away, leaving the Waco theater in a Dickens-less of a dilemma.
WCT Executive Director Eric Shephard drew inspiration from television’s Christmas variety shows of his childhood to come up with “The Most Wonderful Show Of The Year,” a musical revue whose rehearsals could be shoehorned into the theater’s busy December with productions of “The Million Dollar Quartet” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
The revue, directed by choreographer Dylan Gibbons, mirrors the theater’s past “Stars” fundraisers, with a mix of solos, duets and group acts. Interspersed in the show are four dance numbers, all with a Christmas theme. “It’s fun and nostalgic, geared to our talent base,” Shephard said, adding that ticket sales for the two performances already have outsold last year’s “The Story of Scrooge.”