You are holding a bit if history, albeit a small one, in your hands. This is my last theater column. The Weekly Volcano wants to take the column in a new direction, and that direction doesn’t involve me. So I had a bit of time to reflect on my almost two decades of covering the South Sound theater scene and have to smile. The short report is that, although the theaters are largely struggling in the downturn that is affecting most businesses, the state of theater is strong and growing.
It is a much different scene than the one I first started writing about as a way to stay connected to my drive to be on the stage myself while still having my nights and weekends largely free to myself instead of on a stage somewhere in the South Sound. But now I might find myself on one of those stages with the ending of this play-reviewing gig. And I have my pick of theaters that were not around when View from the Cheap Seats first started.
There are more theaters, more shows and better quality actors and productions than when I first put pen to paper in the days before Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Capital Playhouse and Harlequin. Lakewood Playhouse had just gotten “professional” enough to hire its first paid staffer when it hired John Olive and I started writing about South Sound theater.
And now, not only do those theaters exist with paid theater professionals at their helm, but they have added programs that many of us theater buffs could have only dreamed of back then.
One of the handful of crowning gems of the South Sound’s growing theater offerings is Tacoma Children’s Musical Theater at TMP. And it seems only fitting that one of its shows be the one I write about during this swan song.
The theater is staging Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, a playful and energetic story based on the characters of a famous line of children’s books.
Taylor Niemeyer, who was last seen at TMP’s stage as the adorable Dorothy in the theater’s summer production of Wizard of Oz, nails the role of the bossy, yet fun-loving Junie B. She ran the line of fun things children do when faced with challenges and questions they can’t answer. In this case, Junie B. gets a little brother she has mixed emotions about.
The set is simple yet complete and allows the audience to concentrate on the action on the stage as the story plays out with all of the characters straight from the children’s books. This is a show to watch if you have children in your life and you want to see the world through their eyes for an afternoon — or frankly, if you just want a good laugh about how children process information. They can be such loving goofs, and all of their wonder comes through in this show.
[Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, through Nov. 15, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, adults $15, students, seniors and military $13, under 12 $10, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.565.6867]