The King of all Jungle Books
Jungle Book: Adapted and Directed by Margaret Larlham
Event Review by Casey Cook
There’s always something special about seeing a show on opening night. It’s the excitement of being one of the first people to see the play and thus comment on it.
After I made the trip back to the San Diego State University campus, I watched Disney’s The Jungle Book with a friend, got my ticket for the play, and settled into a seat with my playbill in hand (fully equipped with an autograph page). I was ready to analyze and criticize this adaptation of Jungle Book by Margaret Larlham based off of Rudyard Kipling’s novel.
Yes, the play was different from the movie, only keeping the characters the same and then adding new characters. Yes, I was disappointed when only a single line from “The Bare Necessities” was sung as opposed to the entire song. But, yes, the play did exceed my expectations of it.
Jungle Book opened on April 25 and will be playing until May 4; this adaptation by Larlham was beautifully executed and brilliantly put together. It was obvious that a lot of work was put into this play from the massive set, background scenery, and the elegant costumes to the visual effects, beautiful music (by Thomas Hodges), and choreographed dances.The background scenery gave off the jungle feel with handmade vines and a giant tree which was used as a jungle gym by the actors.
The story started with a mother looking for her lost child. What threw me off about this was that she was dressed in normal, street clothes and was searching for her son Mowgli (Megan Duncan) who apparently went through a magic portal door that took him into the Jungle Book. This was where he began his new life in the jungle.
He was taken in by Mother Wolf (Jilliann Giacalone) and cared for and taught by the jungle animals including the bear, Baloo (Christopher Yarrow), and the panther, Bagheera (Chanel Lucia).
My imaginary acting award would have to go to the big bad tiger, Shere Kahn (Ryan Sandvick) and his enjoyable partner-in-crime, the jackal, Tabaqui (Kelli Plaisted). From the second these two got on stage till the moment they left, they held the center of the attention with their playful banter and continuous entertainment.
Larlham took Jungle Book to the next level with an added twist about the industrialization of the world and a call to action for Mowgli to make people and civilization more environmentally friendly at the end. Larlham also thought about her audience, as well as her actors, by breaking the forth wall and having the characters go through the audience in a chase. (So sit near the front if you want an up-and-close experience).
And fearing our motionless posture may cause cramps during the first act, Larlham included what she called “a jungle jazzercise” for the audience during the intermission. Four actors came on stage to relieve the audience from these cramps and led everyone through the motions of the animals in the play.
The only problem I had with this play was the ending: it felt rushed and calculated. I would have enjoyed an ending that flowed better with the structure of the play as well as the storyline. Even with that bit of criticism, this play is a must see and any San Diegan or anyone visiting should get their Jungle Book ticket and go before it’s too late!
Buy your tickets here!
About the Director
Margaret Larlham was born and educated in South Africa, and taught in the Speech and Drama Department at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa prior to moving to San Diego in 1986.She is a Director/Playwright for SDSU Theatre for Youth Season and Touring Programs.
Her play scripts, used with the video resources have occasioned new physical theatre productions by many schools and theatre companies, and have widened audiences to her work, for example: Symphony of Clouds – A Story of Mozart was produced by Pollyanna Theatre Company in Austin Texas for two seasons; Jungle Book – received productions by North Coast Rep., and a school production with a cast of eighty children in New Delhi, India.
Check out the Jungle Book behind the scenes!
Episode 1: Fluffy Friends!
Episode 2: Becoming a Bear
Episode 3: Goop!
Episode 4: Costumes!
Episode 5: Ropes and Skills
Episode 6: Ssssssnakes
Episode 7: Fighting Safety
Episode 8: Puppets
Episode 9: This Coat is so Fine!