Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes, but perhaps one of the most-loved tales of friendship comes in the Rudyard Kipling classic novel, The Jungle Book. The collection of stories, animated by Walt Disney in his 1967 film with the same name, came alive on the Community Recreation Center’s Mary Louise Mello Auditorium stage when Roberta Jones Junior Theatre performed Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids June 8-10.
The three-performance show with a modest 30-minute runtime allowed even the youngest of RJJT’s 4-18 year olds to be part of the play. Between characters with lines, chorus performers and the show’s production staff and technical crew, approximately 80 youth worked in conjunction with RJJT’s director, Kevin Cornelius, to make Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids a success.
Sophia McDaniel (Baloo) and Tamara Pantic (Bagheera) were fantastic in the roles of The Jungle Book’s beloved bear and panther, and will likely be seen in upcoming RJJT performances as the pair carried the show and were enjoyable to watch. Additionally, Nicholas Caldwell (Mowgli) did well in a sea of performers. As one of the younger actors, and possibly the youngest with multiple lines, Caldwell should have a bright future on the RJJT stage.
The musical is full of adorable moments like the Baby Elephant (Samara Hernandez) during Colonel Hathi’s March, and comedic sequences like The Battle between the jungle and Shere Khan (Carley La Placa), but perhaps the most charming scene was right after King Louie (Abigail Wheaton) and his monkey army capture Mowgli. The monkeys sing I Wan’na Be Like You, a song made famous in the Disney movie, and do a delightful choreographed routine. As part of the number, Baloo disguises himself as a banana-eater and immerses himself into monkey culture. However, Baloo can’t help but continue dancing to that “jungle beat” long after the song ends. Baloo’s “monkeying around” eventually leads to a blown cover and when the monkeys discover Baloo is not one of their own, the bear and Bagheera scramble to free Mowgli.
The monkey business, in conjunction with Shere Khan’s hatred for “man cubs” cause Baloo to finally realize the jungle is unsafe for Mowgli. Mowgli Runs before realizing That’s What Friends are For and allowing his jungle to help him conquer Khan. Once the jungle is safe, Mowgli leaves with Shanti (Maya Collins) and becomes part of the “man village.”
In addition to I Wan’na Be Like You, Colonel Hathi’s March, The Battle, Mowgli Runs and That’s What Friends are For, the play contains another loveable tune from the Disney flick, The Bare Necessities, and seven additional musical numbers almost guaranteeing audience members would be singing at least one as they exited the theater.
Roberta Jones Junior Theatre performs Gulliver’s Travels at Mission City Center for the Performing Arts July 24-26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children 18 and younger. To purchase tickets to Gulliver’s Travels or for additional information on RJJT and the programs offered by the organization visit www.RJJT.org.