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Children won’t want to miss ‘Miss Nelson’

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Celesta Rimington, Cameron Cahoon, Fred Lee (jumping) and Laurel Barham play the naughty children of Room 207 in "Miss Nelson Is Missing," showing at SCERA.

Celesta Rimington, Cameron Cahoon, Fred Lee (jumping) and Laurel Barham play the naughty children of Room 207 in “Miss Nelson Is Missing,” showing at SCERA.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

MISS NELSON IS MISSING; SCERA; based on the Harry Allard book, adapted by Joan Cushing; Mondays and Saturdays through Feb. 11 with matinees Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, tickets available at the box office at 225-2569; running time 60 minutes.

OREM — The premise of "Miss Nelson Is Missing" is a bit simplistic and may drive some teachers and disciplinarians crazy.

But if one bears in mind that this play is based on a children's book, and if one doesn't look too deeply for meaning, it's easier to love.

It's certainly a fun and light-hearted venture, and the children in the audience on opening day found it entertaining.

They didn't seem to care that it's fairly obvious who the nasty substitute teacher is after a witch coincidentally shows up when nice Miss Nelson disappears. They don't have a problem with the quick turnaround on the part of the "absolute worst kids in the school," either.

Eight-year-old Jaden Lynn said he liked the play, especially the bratty Adam (played by Fred Lee), but said, with a grin, it wouldn't change how he acts in school.

"I liked it when he (Adam) kept on throwing airplanes and stuff," said Rodney Afu. Afu is also 8 and in the third grade at Hillcrest Elementary.

"It was quite good," said 9-year-old Jared Geake.

"I liked it when Miss Nelson came back," said Raquel Perez, 7.

"We've read the book, so we know how it goes," said 7-year-old Alyssa Fletcher and her classmate, Kendra Holmes.

The play, like the book, is designed to teach a painless mini-lesson to kids about treating teachers with respect by basically showing them how much worse it could be under the rule of a tyrannical meanie.

There's catchy music and good humor throughout, especially in the three characters played by David Whitlock, characters who shamelessly ham it up.

There are a number of local jokes thrown in for the adults that probably sailed right over the heads of the children.

"What if . . . she became a football coach of BYU and they won? What if she got stuck on I-15?" the class wails as it hunts for Miss Nelson.

There are several oldies-but-goodies as well and some audience interaction that makes the children squeal.

But there must be something between the goody-goody teacher who has completely lost control of her class and nefarious Miss Viola Swamp, both played by Tracy Whitlock.

The children in Room 207 at Horace B. Smedley Elementary School would never be asked to bring back a cure for cancer or read all three hobbit novels in one sitting; but then, again, no one really expects this to be taken seriously.

It makes for a fun field trip adventure, and it would work for a family outing, partly because it's blessedly short and also because it's quite well done.

In the cast

David Whitlock: "Pop" Hansen the janitor, Principal Blainsford and Detective McSmog

Tracy Whitlock: Miss Nelson/Viola Swamp (also played by Mindy B. Young)

Laurel Barham: Cheryl

Fred Lee: Adam

Cameron Cahoon: Gregory

Celesta Rimington: Alison

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com