Jamie and Jordan, which returns on April 28 as part of the monthly Performance Network children’s theater series, is a charming musical about two boys born in the same hospital on the same day who become best friends until a twist of fate (and ankle) separates them, with lessons about healthy lifestyle and healthy friendship. It is not so hard for adults to guess where this story is going to go, but how it gets there is a delight–and not heavy-handed at all. There are laughs. There are tears. There are great lines like “Your mom has some cut-up fruit on the dining table.” Parents can lecture for years before kids see the consequences–both good and bad–that this play shows clearly and convincingly in one hour.
My girlfriend Annie and I thought this play sounded perfect for our two boys–friends since preschool–who like playing Nintendo DS and not eating vegetables a bit too much. When neither of our boys was able to make it that day, we decided to go anyway, and, even without the cozy safety net of our children, it wasn’t long before we, too, were dancing and singing in the aisles. Really.
Performance Network offers children’s theater for students in grades K-6 with fairy tales, history, multicultural content, and healthy themes, all with humor and a strong musical beat. Sure, it’s educational, but it’s fun and interactive, too. Designed to support Michigan’s Grade Level Content Expectations, these productions tour schools and libraries around the state, and they are showcased here at the Saturday Series for Young Audiences. Four different plays are offered twice every season, with Jamie and Jordan reprising in April and Wolverine Will in May.
Jamie and Jordan follows the friends as they sing and dance from birth through elementary school and learn about healthy eating, playing sports, studying hard, and helping each other. Before the play begins, the actors do some call-and-response exercises and teach the audience how to do the Wave. The children in attendance are so comfortable interacting with the actors that when the play formally begins and one character cannot find her glasses, a child shouts out, “They’re on your head!” The actors do not have to do much convincing–when it is time to get up and dance, the kids are already dancing on their own.
Following the play was a reception with milk and healthy snacks. I have never seen kids so excited about apple slices. It really worked!