But their greatest success has been the musical Junie B. Jones, the TheatreworksUSA adaptation of the popular children's series -- and having this team connect in the children's arena is a good thing if they can snare the newest generation of potential theatergoers. And let it be known that Dear Edwina, an original, 60-minute work about a Michigan girl who gives advice to neighborhood kids by way of a weekly front-of-garage musical revue, should appeal to somewhat older children than the ones -- who mostly looked pre-kindergarten and kindergarten age -- at the performance I attended.
With the help of a piano-playing brother (Joe Kinosian), drummer sister (Nicole Marcus), and five chums (Tyler Adcock, Ernie Pruneda, Doug Thompson, Shannon Tyo and Katie Whetsell), Edwina Spoonapple (the slick and polished Janice Mays) responds to letters she's received through a string of songs calculated to solve the letter-writers' dilemmas. Before she and her pals reach the finale of the musical within the musical, they've been downright infectious on subjects like how to behave at a party ("Frankenguest"), how to set a table ("Fork, Knife, Spoon"), how to make a shy friend feel comfortable ("Hola, Lola") and how to save money ("Put It in the Piggy).
If the titles sound like instructions in good manners, that's exactly what they are. But Heisler has eased in something of a plot, too. Edwina is hoping her entertainment will impress a prominent adult advice-giver she's invited to the show, a woman who's looking for a panelist to serve at an upcoming advice-giving festival.
Intent on getting the nod, the ever-confident Edwina has no patience for romantic advances from infatuated pal Scott. By the time the show is over, Edwina has realized she might have paid more attention to Scott. She's also learned a lesson about the value of not wanting to be like everyone else, but doing what you love to do -- a moral also embedded in the Disney High School Musical trilogy.
Director Timothy A. McDonald -- who does nicely at keeping his cast fresh and cheerful -- ought to make certain the dialogue is intelligible as it lands on young ears; yet, too often the likable troupe is rushing the lines. Choreographer Steven G. Kennedy produces several lively routines; and the ensemble is pertly set off by Court Watson's colorful house-with-garage design.
During the show, there's an amusing exchange when someone is called an 'obnock." The explanation is that an "obnock" is someone who is what no one ever really wants to be: obnoxious. Dear Edwina is the exact opposite of an obnock.
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Don't show this again.