By Betty Freeman
It’s a real jungle at Whidbey Children’s Theater this month.
Thirty-two Whidbey Island youngsters sing, dance and act their hearts out in WCT’s season-opening musical, “The Jungle Book,” based on the “Mowgli” stories of Rudyard Kipling.
The musical adventure features Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle, who, with the help of his mentors — the bear Baloo, the panther Bagheera and the python Kaa — learns to survive as they teach him the laws of the jungle. With their help, Mowgli escapes the ruthless tiger Shere Khan, and meets unforgettable friends along the way.
Like the lessons Mowgli learns from his jungle friends, the young cast members are also learning the value of cooperation and supportive teamwork in producing an ambitious show.
The musical was cast from students in WCT founder Martha Murphy’s production workshop class, who range in age from 7 to 16.
“A big part of what I want for the cast is for them to develop a sense of teamwork, while building their confidence and self-expression,” said Murphy, who directed and choreographed “The Jungle Book.” “The underlying goal of all my work with children in drama is for the kids to have fun and to create childhood memories that stay with them in adult life.”
“The Jungle Book” offers challenging animal parts for the young actors, ranging from a peacock to a panther, bats, bears, monkeys and wolves.
Students in the workshop auditioned for the parts they wanted, and often the parts they aspired to matched their personalities, Murphy said.
“Chatty kids make the best monkeys, while the quieter kids gravitated toward the parts of the mysterious, aloof wolves,” she said.
The students learned to act like their characters by studying the characteristic movements of the different animals featured in the play.
“Once they’re onstage, they must become the animals they portray. For example, monkeys are silly and noisy,” Murphy explained. “And the jackal’s antics may steal the show.”
Alyssa Woodbury plays the brave and loyal Mowgli, who is befriended by the wise panther Bagheera (Megan DeWolf), the lovable, goofy bear Balloo (Sophie Frank) and the hypnotic python Kaa (Hannah Mack). Cole Cable plays the jackal, and Audrey Neubauer is Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the mongoose.
The two high-school students in the cast, Kate Ewing and Ethan Berkley, act as mentors to the younger cast members. Ewing is the storyteller Nyra, whose narration keeps the story moving along, while Berkley plays the man-eating tiger Shere Khan.
The audience will be part of each performance, too.
“One of the fun parts of the show is engaging the audience’s participation in making jungle sounds, booing the villains and cheering the heroes,” Murphy said. “Some characters talk to the audience, drawing them into the action.”
WCT creates a real jungle experience for audiences from the moment they walk into the lobby. Murphy’s production team includes vocal direction by Melinda Mack, costume design and construction by Carrie Carpenter and set design and theater decoration by Glenn Jones and Gina Simpson.
“The Jungle Book” is a fun family show with original, catchy music and positive messages about friendship and respect for all life.
“The Jungle Book” plays two weekends beginning Oct. 10 at Whidbey Children’s Theater in the Porter Building in downtown Langley. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Oct. 10 and 17; Saturdays, Oct. 11 and 18 and Sunday matinees Oct. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m.
Adult tickets cost $12; students (K-12) and seniors (65 and older) cost $8. A special family-night performance on Friday, Oct. 17, offers all tickets at $7.
For advanced reserved seating, call 221-2282. For more information, Click here.