OCT's 'Me ... Jane' offers musical look at beloved animal scientist
The Review, Tidings
Oregon Children's Theatre will present "Me ... Jane: The Dreams and Adventures of Young Jane Goodall" Oct. 19 through Nov. 17 at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway in Portland. This West Coast premiere opens OCT's 2019-20 season.
Originally commissioned in 2017 by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., childhood imagination leads the way in this musical portrayal of Jane's lifelong love of animals; starting with backyard chickens, hungry squirrels and neighborhood dogs.
When Jane was just a year old, her father gave her Jubilee, a stuffed monkey that became her favorite toy and sidekick.
Together in Jane's daydreams the duo would eat breakfast on the Sahara, feel the ground shake during the Great Migration on the Serengeti, and smell the air on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Defying expectations of what girls "should" do, her natural curiosity leads her (and Jubilee) all the way to the land of her dreams: living amongst the chimpanzees in the jungles of Africa.
This empowering story, paired with catchy and memorable musical numbers, is the perfect selection to open OCT's 2019-20 season, keeping in line with the organization's commitment to diverse storytelling, equity and inclusion.
"We chose 'Me...Jane' because it's a great piece of theatre: a brilliant, funny, and moving script with amazing music," Director Marcella Crowson said. "The story holds inspiration for all of us, young and old, to be better caretakers of the animals and the environment."
The musical is based on the children's book "Me...Jane" by Patrick McDonnell, who brilliantly captures Jane's joyous, adventurous spirit. Adapted for the stage by McDonnell and Oregon-born playwright Aaron Posner, the production not only entertains but also teaches children the importance of curiosity and discovery, as well as achieving goals with perseverance.
It encourages young children to pursue their ambitions and strive to accomplish their dreams in the face of adversity.
"The relationship in this show between Jane and her mother is very important," Crowson says. "At the center of the story is a curious, compassionate young girl who found her love of animals and the natural world at an early age; she was encouraged, unfailingly, by her mother to follow her dreams and achieve whatever she set her heart on. It's fantastic to find a book and a play where girls and women are portrayed as strong, smart, creative and resilient."
The performance features young performer Aida Valentine as Jane, who has performed in many previous productions with OCT, including "Flora & Ulysses," "James & the Giant Peach" and "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience."
"Jane is a role of a lifetime for a young performer, and we're fortunate to have an actor who's grown up on our stages, and is ready to take on the heart, passion and complexity of playing Jane Goodall," Crowson says of Valentine.
Hillary Hoover plays Jane's 'Mum,' with ensemble actors Paige Rogers, Heath Hyun Houghton and Raphael Likes rounding out the cast of neighbors and neighborhood animals.
Tickets start at $15 with group rates available. To purchase or learn more, call the box office at 503-228-9571 or www.octc.org.
Attendees are encouraged to come an hour early for pre-show activities, and after each performance audiences can meet the cast, take photos and get their playbills signed.
Show times are at 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sundays. The 2 p.m. Oct. 26 performance will be American Sign Language interpreted.
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