Love and Laughter in Junior SING!––We’re On Board!

Following the gangster Frank on his battle between money or love, we take a journey through the 1920s on a ship with a precious jewel. What starts off as a cheesy love story, evolves into a deep, relatable narrative.
Coordinated by Ray Jones and produced by Stephanie Zheng, Lydia Zhang, Donia Tung, and Adam Abbas, Junior SING! kicks off the show by giving us a Broadway-esque preview of all the characters as they rush onto the boat.
From the very beginning, Junior SING! shows off its skills: a sheer see-through screen is cleverly used to heighten the suspense of the set reveal. Opening with a rap medley between the two stowaway gangsters, the characters of Frank and Harry (Garrett Hall and Holden Higgins) become enticing. The blind screen lifts, and we are introduced to a hilarious mother and son duo, played by August Murphy and Cody Lin. Murphy plays the rich wife of a billionaire who spoils her overdramatic, sassy son. The pair is complaining about their incompetent captain (Travis Tyson) just as he walks in. Lin portrays his character excellently, making the audience laugh along while calling the captain “Captain Crunch” and “Craptain.”
Quickly switching scenes, Frank and Harry bump into the lovable yet dumb Naive Steve (Justin Chan) who reveals the existence of the prized jewel. Chan’s portrayal of his character was successful as every single word he said made the audience laugh.
Along their search, Junior SING! takes us through the different areas on the boat and sets the stage for the different dance crews. First, we follow Harry and Frank as they walk into a dance class while looking for the jewel. The dance teacher pairs up the dancers, and we are introduced to Bella (Nicole Shin), who is paired with Harry. Instantly, we observe their connection as they begin to hesitantly flirt, and they leave us wanting to see more of this charming connection as their dance gets cut off.
Harry and Frank continue their search for the jewel and break off into another duet. As they search for the jewel, they are caught by the guard (Mark Shafran) who immediately suspects that they are thieves. Bella enters and we discover that she is actually the daughter of the rich wife that we met earlier. She supports Frank and Harry and claims that “the jewel [they are looking at] is made of cheap material like glass, or quartz, or Soph-Frosh jokes,” one of the many disses that keeps the script colorful. Bella proceeds to invite Frank to the ball being held later in hopes of finishing their dance.
Meanwhile the captain, who suspects that someone will plot to steal the jewel, voices his concerns to the rich wife. To prove his point, he belts an impressive solo version of “They’ll Steal It,” (based on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) while overshadowing the backup flow dancers. The audience doesn’t know where to look, and we are whisked back to Harry and Frank as they stumble into the engine room. Here, the step crew, directed by Sophia Heo, Derek Tran, and Jacqueline Xu, plays coal workers donned in aesthetically gritty costumes and makeup, who are yelled at to “Get back to work!” Step gives an impressive performance with great synchronization and ripple effects.
Towards the climax of the show, we see an outstanding performance by Hall as his character battles the choice between money or love. Frank’s complexity was accurately portrayed, and the audience could relate to his inner turmoil. As he battles with his own storm of emotions, quite symbolically, the ships faces a storm of its own. Contemp plays lightning and thunder, and though their dance doesn’t produce the stormy atmosphere, they have flowing moves and show control as they dance in one silvery skirt connecting all the other dancers.
Junior SING! deserves recognition for their hilarious writing, which kept the audience amused. The script was riddled with absolutely golden one-liners like “I haven’t seen something thrown around like a Bronx Science Fight Club” and “If you wanted to have feelings you should’ve gone to LaGuardia.” Little moments of hilarity left the audience in stitches, like Ray Jones making a cameo as a Freshman plaything for the bratty rich son, whining “I don’t want to go back to the candy store! It’s so boring!”
Harry, the older, less moral gangster, is the comic engine of the performance. His role is half reason and half humor. He tries to entice Frank to steal the jewel and drop his romance with Bella by explaining that the gem would be worth “20 million dollars! That’s…*stops to do calculations in the air* 4 million halals!” (“I could pay for half of my college tuition,” Frank responds, eyes shining). Much of his role, in fact, incorporates current slang, using the backdrop of the 1920s as ironic leverage.
His and Frank’s chemistry on stage is part of what makes the show so amusing. “We need to talk,” Harry says, referencing Frank’s failing allegiance to the plan. “Are you breaking up with me?” Frank responds, his voice cracking. In another scene, they keep the audience laughing with an onslaught of competing puns: “I certainly am on board! Get it? Cause we’re on a boat!” and “I’m not going to betray her for some cash!” followed by “But it’s not some cash! It’s a BOATload.”
Smaller characters made the most of their moment to keep the audience amused. Eliana Kavouriadis, as the dramatic cruise-ship dance teacher, proclaimed in an exaggerated, posh accent, “The jewel of the arts, dance!” Even the bodyguard, played by Rigneyla Rigneyla, performed an unexpected solo singing “I’m a well dressed guy.”
Humor went into every detail of the production—beyond the script and the actors, jokes were put in at every opportunity, like the prop box aggressively labeled “JEWEL,” and the title of the ship, painted onto the set: “The S. S. Sugarfree.”
But, Junior SING! also deserves to be praised for its impressive romantic aspect. At the ball, Bella and Frank begin to fall deeper in love and Frank becomes further conflicted. This scene leaves the audience feeling warm and fuzzy, with adorable lines like Bella saying, “Frank, come on up, the view’s amazing,” and Frank responding, “The view’s already amazing.” They broke out into a harmonized version of “City of Stars.” Bella’s voice was sweet and melodic, blending nicely with Frank’s. Band member Connie Walden enhanced this moment with a beautiful trumpet solo from the side of the stage.
What shines about this romance is the complexity of its characters and their interactions. Bella loves Frank because he “sees the real me”―something she hadn’t experienced before, as the child of a rich family. Frank, on the other hand, is conflicted, trying to decide whether or not to weigh his romance with Bella over the gain of stealing. Romance is frivolous and unfaithful; wealth is reliable, yet cold. It is this on-and-off faithfulness that makes the romance interesting. “You can trust me,” Frank promises Bella. The entire audience hisses.
As the ball comes to an end, belly enters the stage. Though their presence is unexpected and not very well integrated, they give an alluring dance showing off their skills. Also, somewhat awkwardly inserted, the hip-hop crew enters with a great, flirty concept and catchy beat to back up the bodyguard and his solo. Kevin Li frantically rushed up from the band pit to play his triangle during this performance showing his clear dedication to make sure even the smallest details worked out.
When Bella finally discovers the truth about Frank and Harry, she overhears them just as they are about to steal the jewel. (“And [Frank] has the key to your room?” the captain asks, appalled. “And the key to her heart,” adds the bodyguard). In suspense, the audience wonders whether Frank will choose money over love, but fortunately, love prevails. Harry is arrested while Bella runs into Frank’s arms.
“I lied earlier,” Frank says, tying the necklace holding the jewel back around Bella’s neck. “You look absolutely beautiful,” and he pulls her in to finish the show with a stunning kiss.
At the end of a closing narration, Travis Tyson meandered back onstage; “And I have just one more question for you,” he said. “Are you ready, kids?”
“Aye aye, captain!” the rest of the cast screamed, bursting on stage to close the show with what can assuredly be called the most enthusiastic Spongebob-theme parody ever to be sung by high school students. All in all, Junior SING! was a stunning success, balancing the romance and the comedy on a razor blade, weaving subplots together amongst individual moments of glory.

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