The Jungle Book for Kids – NOW Productions

The Jungle Book for Kids – NOW Productions

This production had dual casts in the principal roles. In the interests of fairness to all, TASA reviewed both casts. Allison Thomas reviewed the Jungle Cast and Alan Shepley reviewed the Village Cast.
Jungle Cast
A multitude of talented children of all ages entertained an enthusiastic group of parents and friends at Shedley Theatre on opening night on the 16th of February 2024.
First it was the Pre-Show. Ten solo song acts by multi-talented young people. Some of the songs were familiar, others not. Expression, mime and dance were all well harmonised with their wonderful voices. Several of the soloists were also the main characters in The Jungle Book production which followed after the interval. Then there was a couple of teaser songs from the teenage cast of High School Musical which is playing next weekend at Shedley Theatre.
From the opening horde of energetic monkeys and other jungle creatures – flowers and bees, bushes and trees, who descended from the aisles of the theatre onto the stage, children of all shapes and sizes and ages, dancing and leaping and singing – to the last note at the end of the show, the fun was infectious. And the audience enjoyed and applauded them all the way.
Diminutive Lucy Harry as Shanti stole the show every time she appeared. Her beautiful strong voice soared over the ensemble and her confident stage presence and expression made her the stand out star, even though she is only seven years old! Savannah Thompson as slinky Bagheera the Black Panther, Levi Seyfang as bouncy Baloo the bear, Anna Restall as fierce Shere Kahn the tiger and energetic Zelman McMillan as Mowgli, were all the excellent singers, dancers and performers.
The costume and performance of the three girls that made Kaa the snake came alive was ingenious. Ruby Fowler, Bethany Swift and Georgia Lauro co-ordinated sounds, song and snaky body with reptilian and snake-like grace.
Which brings in the wonderful costumes. Mowgli’s was simply red, Bagheera was a luxurious velveteen Black Panther suit with long dragging tail. Baloo the bear had a suitably large, wobbly bottom. Shere Kahn’s regal tiger outfit was a beautifully made suit with tiger skin and jewelled turban. The four bees were cute and the elephant, monkey and leafy jungle costumes were very creative. Then there were the vultures with long black feather boas on their costumes. King Louie was suitably furry and bejewelled. All these costumes were created by Kylie Mobbs and Lynda Cook and a team of helpers. Well done!
Excellent face makeup by Kylie Mobbs was striking on the main actors. Set Design by Joe Russell was minimal with a few bright jungle trees and mood lighting. Music Direction was shared by James Hester and Lucy Oster – a huge task to manage 44 performers. Harry Rouse’s sound was excellent with the large number of performers with only one small glitch I noticed on opening night, Maisy Jo and Molly Richardson’s choreography was flowing and well rehearsed with wonderful effects. This was all coordinated and ably directed by Emily Cumming and Alex Richardson.
It’s only a short program 16th and 17th of February for this great entertainment for kids, parents and young at heart.
Village Cast
There  were some notable performances from the Village Cast of NOW’s production of Disney’s musical “Jungle Book”. I’ll deal with them in program order. Riya Soza was an effective and energetic Mowgli, full of life. She certainly caught my eye with her natural stage presence and the obvious thought she had given the role. Belle Coulson was an effective slinky black panther in the role of Bagheera. Jackson Gibson treated his role as Baloo with obvious relish, good timing and enthusiasm whilst Campbell Fowler provided qualities of power, command and control as Shere Khan.

Elijah Proctor was certainly “King of the Monkeys” in the eyes of the audience and well coordinated snakey trio Ruby Fowler, Bethany Swift and Georgia Lauro were an impressive interweaving jungle python called Kaa. Soph Bright also demonstrated a mature ease on stage as the young girl Shanti. (Stage presence will improve for all the cast of this piece with more experience in subsequent productions.) Abby May Murray-Cotton didn’t forget much as elephant leader Colonel Hathi whilst Christian Lauro did what baby elephant’s do! Lucas Mentha displayed a keen and alert sense for comedy as the Old Monkey

The pre-show presentation by individual singers was most entertaining. There was no standout performer for me but I thought everybody involved gave it their best. I was impressed with NOW’s “High School Musical” teaser voiced by the entire cast of that upcoming production. It looks and sounds great!

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