Jungle Book – the musical

‘The Jungle Book – the musical’ is loosely based on the collected stories by Rudyard Kipling. Stage show storyline and lyrics are by Markus Weber, with the sparkling music by Michael Summ. This 105-minute, fun-filled production is for both the young (over 5) and young at heart. It can be seen at the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, 13 Murdoch Road in Thornlie.

This is yet another show that had to be postponed due to Covid restrictions. Sadly, on its return there is a seating limit which at present has a 50% reduction. Hopefully, this will be lifted in the next few days. Many theatre groups have been put under great financial strain, so produce their shows with the blood sweat and tears, coupled with their kindness and generosity, of their helpers – this is one such show. Thanks to all concerned for their dedication.

The new performance times and dates for this latest Laughing Horse Production Inc. are Thursday 8th July, 6.00 pm, Friday 9th July, 7.30 pm, Saturday 10th July at 2.00 pm and again at 7.30 pm. There is Sunday matinée on 11th July at 2.00 pm.

Even the theatre’s entrance hall has wild jungle plants to get the children into the mood before the show.

The Scene:           is an Indian jungle in 1890.

The Set:                 The colourful jungle set was designed and constructed by Rach Gilmour and her team of Krispin Maesalu, Mishka Miller and the extra help of Phoenix Theatre. An outside scene is exceedingly difficult to represent convincingly, but the vegetation on stage was convincing for the audience’s age group. There was a creeper-covered trunk on a large tree to the side of the stage and various potted plants in front of the stage.

Lighting:              Rich White designed and operated the wonderful lighting that varied between dark and creepy to a bright dappled forest lighting.

Sound:                  Chris Mulchinock designed and operated the superb jungle soundscape, the musical backing CD, and actors’ headsets flawlessly.

Production and stage manager was Rachael Gilmour, who was fully tuned in and on top of everything. Smooth work.

Another smart programme design from Danni Close.

In the jungle, a young Indian woman and her four-year-old son, Mowgli (Michaela Logan) are enjoying a day out, when a terrifying man-eating tiger, Shere Khan (Aaron O’Neil) appears looking for his lunch. A troop of monkeys, and their leader, King Louie (Beau van der Beeke), know that Shere Khan will kill the child cub, so come to Mowgli’s rescue. The monkeys take Mowgli to see the chief wolf, Akela (Krispin Maesalu). Akela allows the black panther Bagheera (Sarah Thillagaratnam) to adopt and mentor Mowgli. His first test is a python called Kaa (Tara Talbot) whose hypnotic eyes almost capture Mowgli.

Seven years later, we find teenage Mowgli still healthy and being cared for by his big cuddly friend, the loving but dim sloth bear, Baloo (Mishka Miller). Discovering he is not a bear but a human, Mowgli wants to stay with Baloo and Bagheera, but they insist he goes back to ‘human land’. Then Shere Khan arrives, causing trouble again. Perhaps the giant python, Kaa might protect everyone.

Out of the jungle comes an elephant in a Colonel’s uniform. He is Colonel Hathi (Krispin Maesalu). With his army of elephant soldiers (Ensemble: Renae Harmer, Chloë van der Beeke, Izzy Gath, Georgia Talbot and Isla Sweetman) Colonel Hathi rescues Mowgli. Then he remembers a special red flower that might save their lives.

The play’s inventive Director is Krispin Maesalu, a WAAPA trained music teacher from Albany who is also the show’s Musical Director.

The splendid, lively backing track CD (supplied by the copyright holders) is delightful, however due to Disney’s exclusive rights, the film’s songs and music are not included. The children, however, will love the quality singing and fun dance routines. The seven main characters all sang their solos with gusto, enunciating every word clearly so any child not knowing the story will still enjoy every second.

The jungle characters had a wonderful chemistry working. Even little 11 years old Michaela showed every emotion and had great rapport – a wonderful performance. The show opened with the whole cast singing in four-part harmony which worked jaw-droppingly well, amazing talent.

Musical Director Krispin Maesalu has chosen his vocalists very well. there were some crystal-clear, powerful soloists. Choreographer, Hayley Parker has also selected her dancers carefully who gave us fairly simple routines that the youngsters can sway along to.

The interesting costume designs (Shirley Gilmour, Ben Albert, Phoenix Theatre and Sheryl Gale) were the result of a skilled eye and a great deal of needlework. The costumes are different to the film, for example with Baloo’s light grey fur, dressed in a bright yellow blouse with large, clawed feet. Mowgli wears a loin cloth. Shere Khan was threatening with his excellent makeup and his tiger clothing. Thanks to the fine operator (Tara), Kaa the snake (by Ben Albert) – strongly constructed and most realistic – mesmerised the young audience with his glowing eyes. King Louie looks like Louis 14th of France with his pink, powdered wig – great idea, well carried off by Beau. Don’t tell anyone but many of these colourful items came from an op shop, yet looked magnificent.

There were plenty of laughs for even the youngest of children. A most pleasant night out, seeing a well-known story of just the right length for the audience age.