For Janae Burris, Narrating Peter and the Wolf is a Dream Come True

June 1, 2023

Denver-based comedian, actor, and entertainer Janae Burris will narrate Peter and the Wolf at the Colorado Music Festival Family Concert on July 2, 2023. Learn why Janae is excited to bring narrate this musical storybook.

Colorado Music Festival: Hi, my name is Erica Reid, I’m with the Colorado Music Festival, and I’m talking to Janae Burris today, who is a Denver-based comedian, entertainer, actor. Janae, can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects that you’re working on right now?

Photos courtesy of Kate Rolston, Denver Life Magazine

Janae Burris: Right now? Summer, I’m always doing a … I work as a camp counselor for Athena Project. I teach stand-up comedy to girls, to middle school and high school-age girls. I am getting ready to do my first headlining set at Comedy Works. Denver Comedy Works is my home club. I’ve been on the list for a few years and now finally going to get to headline my own night. And also, I am going to be hosting Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks this summer.

Festival: So keeping busy then?

Janae: Yeah. 

Festival: And then on top of that, do I hear you have a new baby?

Janae: Oh yeah. He’s a year now. Still new to me though. Man, wildest year of my life. But yeah, so trying to do all the things I love to do, plus raising a tiny human.

Festival: Well, I wanted to ask about that because you are taking part in our Family Concert. I know a lot of the comedy you do is for adults, although it sounds like you’re also working with youth as well, you’re running the whole gamut. And this Family Concert is some of our youngest audiences, so what will it be like performing for young kids and families like that?

Janae: You know what, narrating Peter and the Wolf was like a dream I’ve had since I first heard it in second grade.

Festival: Really!

Janae: I’m so excited for this. I can’t believe it. When the opportunity came up to even audition, I was just like, “Please let me get this. I want this so badly.” And I’m just super excited to do it, and I hope everybody brings their kids because it made such an impression on me when I was a child. I never forgot it.

Festival: So let’s talk about Peter and the Wolf for a second. If you don’t know the story, this is the story of Peter and his grandfather and a wolf and a duck and a cat. And those characters are all played by musical instruments. And then there’s a narrator telling the story, and that’s the role that you’re going to play. So, how are you going to make that role fun? What are you going to bring to that role, Janae?

Janae: Well, I’ve been listening to different versions of it. Of course, David Bowie‘s is one of the most famous ones. But when I listen to them, I’m like, I’m thinking about bringing in some of my acting abilities. I’m a theater gal, I went to school for theater and I really want to play the roles. I’m moving my body. I want to move my body, use my voice in every way. I don’t know. First, I’m going to have to calm down my excitement because that’s the number one. 

Festival: Please don’t! [laughs]

Janae: [laughs] I’m just super geeked for it. It’s strange. But I want to really tell the story with my whole body and communicate with the audience. It’s such a great piece of music and when you hear the narration, when you just hear it, you can see it so clearly. And so since we’ll be there in person, I’m just going to put it in my whole body and communicate with all of my energy and spirit to the audience.

Festival: Oh, that sounds perfect. It’s also sounds like you’re going to make it your own. This is going to be Janae Burris’s Peter and the Wolf.

Janae: I hope so. Yeah. I hope so.

Festival: So, has your son heard this story a number of times along with you?

Janae: Yes! [laughs] As soon as I got the dates for this, I just made him listen to it over and over. He’s only one and he’s been listening to it. I don’t know if he gets it yet.

Festival: Aw. He’s going to have memories like you do of hearing it as young child and it never quite leaving him.

Janae: I hope so.

Festival: Even if he’s one, it’ll get in there, I think.

Janae: Yeah. I hope. It can be a little scary though. Sometimes I feel, I’m like … It’s scary. The wolf is scary. The grandfather is. It’s intimidating. And so sometimes I’m like, “Okay, maybe this isn’t the best for bedtime. Maybe this is a daytime listen.”

Festival: Is there another story that your son’s been listening to over and over that you think would make a good performance, or something that you bring your whole self to when you read it?

Janae: One of my favorite stories to read to him is Baby Goes to Market. I think the author is Atinuke. I can’t pronounce it. But I do many voices when I read the story to him. And when he was very little, he couldn’t sit still. And now he sits still and listens to it and I try to just really perform it for him, make it worth his time. I’m a theater gal, so I make it a whole theatrical performance for him. I don’t know if it’s his favorite, but it’s my favorite thing to read to him.

Festival: Maybe we’ll have to see if we can get a composer to set it to music and have another family concert with Baby Goes to Market.

Janae: Yes. Yes. It’d be awesome.

Festival: Do you play any musical instruments yourself or did you when you were in school?

Janae: I didn’t. I really want my son to, though. I know that musical parents end up with musical kids, but I’m pushing him in that direction. I’m buying all the toy versions of instruments and I’m setting up pots and pans to let him play. And I encourage him every time he pounds on the table. He’s an expressive one-year-old. He doesn’t have actual words yet, but he has whole conversations with his babbling and he pounds on the table. And I’m like, “Yes, let’s make music out of that.” I really desire to have a musical child.

Festival: I was a theater kid like you, that was sort of my artistic expression, and I wish I had studied an instrument. The other half of the Colorado Music Festival is the Center for Musical Arts, which teaches music lessons to kids of all ages starting at 18 months. We have young toddler classes and stuff. So when you start getting a sense of, is he into percussion, or we’re going to try strings…

Janae: Yes.

Festival: You got to get them started young.

Janae: Ooh, yes. I’m into that. 18 months, absolutely. We’ll be ready.

Festival: So, okay. Our Family Concert with Peter and the Wolf, as well as Eric Whitacre’s Goodnight Moon and a couple of other pieces, it takes place on Sunday, July 2nd at 10:30. It’s about a 45-minute concert for young attention spans. It should be a casual atmosphere. Is there anything else that you would like to say about Peter and the Wolf and your experience with this Family Concert coming up in early July?

Janae: Bring all of your friends and your friends’ kids, and let’s make it a whole family party together. Let’s make it fun. And I’m going to say, don’t be afraid of letting your kids be vocal and really feel the whole story. It’s going to be exciting for all of us.

Festival: I love that. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for being our narrator in Peter and the Wolf. It sounds like it’s going to be a great time. And thanks for talking with me this morning.

Janae: Thank you. Thanks, Erica.

Festival: Thanks so much.