The Jungle Book
Productions often get described as ‘fun’ when no grander adjective applies. But this musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic is fun in the most purposeful and satisfying sense. The set is a vine-slung adventure playground with swing-rope, footbridge and leafy den. The cast is one big bear hug of a family. A chorus of children scampers round palm trees and dances with wolves with grins that have nothing to do with drama schooling and everything to do with the fresh-found joy of theatre.
You can forget Disney, too. This is a revival of Mike Carter’s 1990s adaptation from the days of the Gardner Arts Centre. It is funny and thrill-filled, but with a tender understanding of how confusing and frightening growing up can be. There are echoes of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! in some of the songs, which range from the bum-wiggling camaraderie of If You Ever Need a Friend to the torch-lit melodrama of I’ll Rule the Jungle (With Fire).
The latter is a solo for Kamari Romeo’s lithe and sensitive Mowgli. He moves like a tai chi master but has to work to project his sweet voice – fittingly enough for an uncertain adolescent whose best buddy is a bear. Doug Devaney’s instantly loveable Baloo cuffs and cuddles his charge through the life lessons. Gordon Winter’s Chief Monkey is a lolloping ginger cross between Asterix’s Vitalstatistix and a cave-age Tom Waits. Kaa the snake is a huge green-glistening puppet.
Unified by Indian-inspired costumes, including turbans folded with just a hint of snout, this is a great summer holiday show that shimmers with jungle heat and theatrical magic.
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