NEPA Scene Staff

‘Llama Llama’ children’s books become a musical at Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on April 4

‘Llama Llama’ children’s books become a musical at Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on April 4
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From a press release:

“Llama Llama Live,” a new musical by Bay Area Children’s Theatre inspired by the bestselling “Llama Llama Red Pajama” series of picture books by the late Anna Dewdney, is touring to 40 theaters throughout the United States and Canada, including the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, April 4 at 1 p.m.

Tickets, which are $25, $35, and $45, plus fees, are on sale now and available at the Sundance Vacations Box Office at the Kirby Center (71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre), online at, and by phone at 570-826-1100.

Families can join in the fun when Llama bursts into his bedroom looking frantically for his favorite red pajamas. Mama, hearing the commotion, comes upstairs with Llama’s pajamas in the laundry basket to ask about his day – his very first day at school – and put him to bed. But when she goes downstairs to do the million things that busy mothers have to do at the end of the day, Llama is too wiggly to fall asleep, and besides, he’s thirsty. He howls for Mama to come back up, but she doesn’t arrive. Will she ever return?

“What’s amazing about the Llama Llama books,” director Marty Johnson said, “is that they are telling a story about a normal child who is going through scary moments about growing up and has to learn how to take care of himself in the simplest ways to feel safe, comfortable, and become a little bit more independent. What we’re doing with this musical is to bring to life some of those situations, as Llama learns that, if he’s a bit anxious, he can calm down and not have a total mental breakdown at this very moment. Llama is already living in an imaginary world, but sometimes that scary shadow is just an old towel and a baseball bat left on the floor. We’re just helping him deal with the choices he has made.”

The musical features original cast members Kris Anthony Williams as the kindergarten-age Llama, Sheila Townsend as Llama’s Mama, Xavier Ali as Fuzzy, and Elisha X Beston as Dinosaur. Leah Sanginiti joins the cast as Robot.

Award-winning playwright, composer, and lyricist Austin Zumbro (“Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site the Musical”) has written a panoply of clever tunes in a variety of styles to create a fun-filled, contemporary musical that expresses the imagination of childhood for both children and adults to enjoy, including a song about the history of sleepwear through the ages.

Families are invited come to this original, world-premiere musical recommended for ages 3 and up and ready to do the “Bedtime Dance.”

Named by as one of the Top 10 educators who are shaping Broadway, Marty Johnson first became involved in the world of musical theatre when he was 10 years old and his 4-H club put on an amazing rendition of “Peter Pan” where he made his own top hat. Little did he know that, 25 years later, “Peter Pan” would become one of the shows he would shepherd through the Broadway Junior adaptation process as the director of education and resident director at iTheatrics.

Since 2004, Johnson has developed and directed over 40 new titles for iTheatrics, including the Australian and New Zealand pilot workshops of Disney’s “Newsies Jr.,” DreamWork’s “Madagascar Jr.,” and “Ragtime School Edition,” among others. He also oversees all of iTheatrics’s educational programs, including the Junior Theater Academy for students, professional development workshops for teachers, partnerships with Turnaround Arts and the Educational Theater Association, and programming for Junior Theater festivals and celebrations worldwide.

In 2018, Johnson was honored to direct the first Turnaround Arts National Talent Show held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. That year, he also traveled to China to teach classes and direct “Music Man Jr.” for the Broadway Academy in Ningbo. Additional directing credits include the world premiere of two musicals written by Laurie Berkner, “Interstellar Cinderella” and “The Amazing Adventures of Harvey and the Princess” for New York Children’s Theater and the world premiere of the new musical “Llama Llama Live” for Bay Area Children’s Theater.

Johnson holds a graduate degree in theatre for youth from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and served for nine years as a board member for TYA/USA, the leading organization for the advancement of theatre for young audiences in the world. He also co-authored “The iTheatrics Method: The Quintessential Guide to Creating Quality Musical Theatre Programs,” published by GIA Publications, Inc.

Austin Zumbro is an award-winning playwright and composer born and raised in the Bay Area. His musicals for Bay Area Children’s Theatre’s main stage include “Press Here: The Musical,” “Beautiful Oops,” “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: The Musical,” “Fly Guy: The Musical,” “The Day the Crayons Quit: The Musical,” and many others. A graduate of Stanford University, he has been on staff with Bay Area Children’s Theatre since 2009.

Bay Area Children’s Theatre is the premier theatre company for young audiences in California, serving more than 125,000 children and adults each year with professional productions, a theatre education program, and outreach to schools in underserved communities.