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Thursday, January 18, 2007

You can call them Junior

Junior versions of popular Broadway shows are brilliant. You get the drama and tunes in an adapted piece that even Little Squirmy can sit through. After all, if you're introducing a child to the joys of books, you don't throw "Bleak House" at him. (Actually, please don't throw "Bleak House" at me.)

In the last few years, the Palo Alto Children's Theatre has been working with MTI to help develop new junior shows. Disney, too. The theater gets a script -- sometimes a wee bit draft-y -- and then turns it into a full production.

In 2000, for example, the kids put on a new high-school version of "Les Miserables," says theater assistant director Michael Litfin. They've also done "Pirates of Penzance," "Children of Eden" and others.

Talk about theater bragging rights for the kids. ("I was the first junior Eponine...") Plus afterwards the kids get to tell Disney and MTI exactly what they think of the show. Apparently one once asked such a complex musical question about "Mulan" that the Disney folks were stumped.

"Palo Alto kids," says Michael, "are very articulate."

Pictured: Griffin Carlson, who's playing a dwarf in this year's production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." This photo by Norbert von der Groeben is on the cover of this Friday's Weekly.