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An Imaginative show that is the perfect way to kick of the holiday season.

Cast of Junie B.
Photo by Steve Gibbons

As kids, around the holidays, it was always fun to sing alternative lyrics to songs, especially Jingle Bells. If you are like me, just hearing Jingle Bells puts you into the holiday spirit. You can probably remember those alternative lyrics as well. While this may be featured in Des Moines Playhouse's production of "Junie B in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells," the show quickly becomes a play for kids of all ages. Judging by the audience's reaction to the show, "Junie B." is the perfect way to kick off your holiday season.

Junie B. is a first-grader in Room One. As the holiday rolls around, we get to go on a journey with Junie as her class prepares to celebrate. Some of the festivities include a holiday sing-along to Jingle Bells, which makes Junie B. reminisce about their last performance in the auditorium and the problems she has had with her classmate May. When it's time to start getting ideas on what to get her family at the school's holiday store, Junie B. faces a dilemma. There is a gift for $5 she would like to get for herself, but she wouldn't have enough money to get it, gifts for her family, and a gift for her Secret Santa, her nemesis, May. What will she do? You'll have to attend the show to find out.

While she may not be a stranger to Playhouse audiences, Jen Green takes on a different role for this production, making her Playhouse directorial debut. She does a fantastic job at capturing the larger-than-life feelings, and imagination young kids have. That imagination spilled out into some of the design elements as well. One of those is Nicholas Amundson's imaginative set design. His use of multiple levels hinted at what could be happening but left it open to the children's imaginations in the audience. I enjoyed listening to a young girl behind me describe what she thought different parts of the set were before the show. Other elements like Angela Lampe's bright and colorful costumes and the lighting of Chris Hanian continues to spark the imaginations of the kids in the audience as they imagine the world of Junie B.

While the directing and technical elements sparked imagination, the cast brought the larger-than-life characters to the stage. The cast is led by Emmersyn Gustafson, who is making her Playhouse debut in the role of Junie B. Jones. While she may not be a first-grade student like Junie B. Jones, she was able to capture the emotions and feelings that you would expect to see from a child that age.

It wouldn't be a play about a first-grade student without a cast full of students to play her classmates. And the cast for "Junie B." all bring their youthful energy to their roles. The classmates consist of Amaya Veldkamp as May, Jackson Ransom as Herb, Ruth Christie as Lucille, Sergio Puente as José (and Grandpa Miller and Philip Johnny Bob), and Harper Hagins as Sheldon. They each have fun moments through the show that allows them to shine as young actors and will delight audiences. The cast is rounded out by three animated performances from Rachel Meyer, Payton Boesch, and Anastasia Deace as the adults in the show. They each do a great job of showing the adult characters how the children in the show would view them.

Whether you are looking for an evening of entertainment or a great way to kick off the holiday season, "Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" will have you leaving in the holiday spirit. From the imaginative directing and technical elements to the larger-than-life characters brought to the stage by the fantastic actors, each works together to deliver the audience a production that will bring out the kid in each of us. Performances will continue through November 14 at Des Moines Playhouse. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Review was written by DC Felton
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From This Author DC Felton