Children’s Theatre Company recommends The Jungle Book for kindergarten and up. I took my kindergartner as my date based on this recommendation even knowing it had an hour and 45 minute run time. He has a spotty record for making it through anything over 45 minutes, but we made it through and he loved it.
He really, really wanted to be able to play on the set and was disappointed when he found out that wasn’t going to be allowed. The set resembles a really awesome natural playground with climbing rocks, tunnels, vines, ladders and swinging ropes. He was not alone in his wish to play on the set, several kids tried to make a dash for it. This would be a good play to follow up with a visit to Wargo Nature Center’s Maple Hollow Nature Play Area (they have the swinging ropes) or one of the other natural playgrounds.
Had the play been less exciting, I think he could have spent both 45 minute sessions imagining what he would do on that set. Of course it was exciting. There were five actors playing all the various jungle animals. Most character changes were done on set.
H. Adam Harris, who played Baloo the Bear and a series of other animal, was my son’s favorite. He kept the performance light even during potentially scary parts. His physical comedy had the kids laughing out loud.
Mowgli was played by Eric Sharp – the only actor to stay in one character throughout the entire show. He convincingly went from toddler to teenager through the story line. My son did need a bit of explanation when there were big jumps in age.
If you are used to Autumn Ness as the sweet narrator of Biggest Little House in the Forest, you’re in for a surprise with her portrayal the hard-nosed Bagheera the Panther. I almost didn’t recognize her.
Somehow Casey Hoekstra is able to create a balance with Shere Khan the Tiger. The audience knows he is dangerous, but he’s never too scary. We loved newcomer, Nastacia Nicole’s portrayal of Kaa the snake. She was beautiful and charming and scary all at once.
My favorite performer was onstage musician who was able to create a jungle atmosphere and keep the young audience connected to the mood of each scene through various instruments.
Although I usually circumvent the gift shop when I take my kids on outings, I made an exception for The Jungle Book and bought an abridged version of the Jungle Book to read at home ($4.00). I’m always looking for new ways to make reading exciting for him. After we finish the book, we may check out the Disney version to compare the different styles. Where Disney is heavy on music, the Children’s Theatre version is not a musical and is very text oriented. It will be fun to see which version my kids like best.