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Review

Disney's The Jungle Book
by Young Actors Theatre

It looks like there’s going to be a rumble in the jungle when a baby man cub named Mowgli finds himself all alone, and the tiger Shere-Khan is determined to never let Mowgli grow up from a man-cub to a man-hunter.

Based on the classic Rudyard Kipling story, the animated Disney film became a classic of its own. And now it’s been adapted for the stage, with Young Actors Theatre in San Diego turning in a very entertaining production of it this summer featuring casts of wolves, monkeys, elephants, vultures, and a few other jungle friends and foes of young Mowgli.

The stage version opens with an introductory number to the tune of the film’s My Own Home, and the black panther Bagheera narrates our tale as he does in the film. Chelsea Mullen does a fantastic job with the character, using graceful, limber, panther-like movements and a kindly while pragmatic personality as she watches out for Mowgli. It’s a relationship that begins with Young Mowgli played by Dalton Dobey who gets adopted by the wolves and shares a cute little song and dance as he grows up and gets replaced by the older Mowgli, Danny Drysdale, who runs away when Bagheera tries to take him to the man-village. Mowgli runs straight into the lovable Baloo featuring a fun and easygoing Dominic Capoocia. A friendship that, of course, leads Danny and Dominic to perform the show’s signature hit – The Bare Necessities.

But there are many dangers in the jungle. Jacob Gardenswartz is Kaa, a bright green snake with a cool costume that blacks out the actor’s hands and legs. Jacob uses his slithery voice, expression, and movements to try to hypnotize Mowgli, aided by some black lighting that adds a good, dark, surreal effect to the attempted eating of our main character. Carson McCalley is the ultra-cool, ultra-laidback, and ultra-crazy King Louie, leader of the monkeys, leading his kingdom in the groovy I Want to be Like You. And, of course, there’s Shere-Khan himself, with Corey Hable giving a good, sinister version of I Want to be Like You and interrogating Kaa before finally uniting with Mowgli for the showdown.

The show includes a highly amusing group of elephants led by a stuffy and pompous Colonel Hathi (Matthew Rearic) and his funny, exasperated wife Winifred (Sierra Goldstein). On the other side of the jungle, four humorous vultures (Sierra Goldstein, Isabella Lenhoff, Dominique Madsen, and Elizabeth Rider) help distract Shere-Khan from turning Mowgli into their next meal. Other good performances come from mother wolf Rasha (Christine Provencher) singing a lullaby to Mowgli, a cute Shanti (Kate Drysdale) demurely luring Mowgli to follower her to the man-village with My Own Home, and a great group of Jungle Singers introducing several scenes with different styles and fun choreography (Rickey S. Viloria), highlighted by Monkey Business.

Director Jean M. Isaac’s show has a terrific flow to it and captures the comedy and danger well. Great visuals help enhance the feel of the show and the characters within them. The set is a nicely painted jungle background with a few trees and plants to give it more authenticity and dimension. And Kelly Fox’s costumes are fantastic, creating the animals while giving us full view of the actors’ faces – faces often done up with some great makeup work, especially on Bagheera. The costumes also break down, allowing the ensemble cast to come out for their well-deserved final bows wearing a mixture of the various creatures they played in The Jungle Book.

Performed June 1-9, 2007.

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~
 

Mowgli: Danny Drysdale
Baloo: Dominic Capoocia
Bagheera: Chelsea Mullen
Kaa: Jacob Gardenswartz
King Louie: Carson McCalley
Shere Khan: Corey Hable
Colonel Hathi: Matthew Rearic
Winifred: Sierra Goldstein
Hathi, Jr.: Noah Hartwell
Shanti: Katee Drysdale
Young Mowgli: Dalton Dobey
Young Shanti: Alexa Cohen

Jungle Singers:
Valerie Counts
Katee Drysdale
Rachel Kolb
Brooke Laver
Katie Ward

Wolf Family:
Matthew Rearic
Christine Provencher
Sofia Gardenswartz
Dylan Hooker
Jonathan Rearic

Elephant Troops:
Paige Contrera
Dylan Hooker
Isabella Lenhoff
Vicki Linman
Dominique Madsen
Elizabeth Rider

Vultures:
Sierra Goldstein
Isabella Lenhoff
Dominique Madsen
Elizabeth Rider

Monkeys:
Paige Contreras
Sierra Goldstein
Noah Hartwell
Isabella Lenhoff
Vicki Linman
Dominique Madsen
Christine Provencher
Elizabeth Rider

Lion Cubs:
Joe Daniel
Dalton Dobey
Jacob Gardenswartz
Shane George
Corey Hable
Dylan Hooker
Jonathan Rearic

Peacocks:
Alexa Cohen
Sofia Gardenswartz
Celeste Goldstein
Kim Linman

Director: Jean M. Isaac
Musical Director: Shane Simmons
Choreograher: Rickey S. Viloria
Costume Designer: Kelly Fox
Lighting Designer: Chris Smith
Sound: Lawrence Tomicich

   

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