by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Dual Critics attended our second production of the Peach State Summer Theatre on June 25 on the campus of Valdosta State University. We were thoroughly entertained and delighted by the stage version of Disney’s The Jungle Book. Based on the 1894 book by Rudyard Kipling, it has become a timeless children’s classic. There have been a number of book adaptations, with and without music, and the story varies somewhat between versions. This version has the music and lyrics by Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman, and Terry Gilkyson
Apparently both of us must have had deprived childhoods as we had never read the book or seen the very popular Disney musical, so we found it a real treat to learn the ways of the jungle in this most humorous way. The Saturday matinee was full, with about half the audience adults and the other half children of all ages; everyone seemed delighted to be there.
When the curtain opened on the forty-five minute show, you are immediately impressed by the jungle setting created by Scene Designer Tom Hansen, filled with trees, vines, and bright bromeliads, and at a later point, the ruins of an ancient temple.
The main character, Mowgli, the Man Cub (Tim Olivar) is a young man who was raised in the jungle by wolves. Shere Kahn, the Tiger (Chance Wall) wants Mowgli to leave the jungle one way or another but Mowgli wants to stay as this has been his home for most of his life. Bagheera, the Panther (Miguela Rivers) comes to the assistance of the young man, as does the very funny Baloo, a sloth bear (Andrew Edward Thomas Jr.) Mowgli encounters many interesting jungle creatures like Kaa, a large python snake (Laura Wright, Barbara Dare Thomas, Hillary Smith); Colonial Hathi (Nathan Cohen), leader of the hilarious Elephants who are skilled tap dancers; a baby Elephant (Antoinette Comer); King Louie (Jonathan Butts) King of the Monkeys; and three singing Vultures (Mr. Butts, Mr. Cohen and Kyle Downing). Almost all of those listed above double back to play various jungle animals wearing different costumes; they are joined by Megan Wheeler.
The costume designs by Esther Iverson are terrific. A number of the animals are portrayed simply but effectively in black leotards with figurative head pieces. More elaborate creations include very large feathers for the vultures, a grass skirt with a Carmen Miranda hat for one of the primates, and a plush fur suit for the bear.
Director Bill Gilbert and Choreographer Barbara Hartwig have created a fast paced show so that there is never a dull moment as the scenes blend into one another. The songs are short and catchy and it is impossible to watch this show without tapping your feet. After the final curtain, Baloo the bear and other cast members come out and lead a sing-along with all the audience joining in “I Wan’na Be Like You.” We guarantee you will walk out of the show singing that song all the way to your car.
To accommodate the kids, The Jungle Book is mostly performed at 2 pm matinees with remaining dates of Saturday July 2, Wednesday July 6, Saturday July 9, Wednesday July 13 and Saturday July 16. The one remaining evening performance is Thursday July 14th.
Highly recommended for kids of all ages and adults who are young at heart. All performances are in Valdosta at the Sawyer Theatre on the campus of Valdosta State University. Call (229) 469-5076 for the box office. We rarely tell the ending but in this case we will. Mowgli meets a very attractive young lady, Shanti (Hillary Smith) walking in the jungle and returns to the man village with her. A happy ending!!!
THE JUNGLE BOOK
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM