Wednesday, 12 July 2017

“The Jungle Book”
Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside
This is a new version of the old tale of Mowgli and his jungle pals, but is closer to the Rudyard Kipling Story than the Walt Disney film.
Presented by New Street Theatre and Nottingham Lakeside Arts, this is their sixth collaboration following on from the wonderful “The Wiz” from last year.
Infant Mowgli is lost and all alone in the jungle. He has help from his new friends Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther and Akela the wolf, and he needs their help to keep him safe from characters like Shere Khan the tiger and Kaa the python.
The music in the play is all new and from the pen of BB Cooper and has been written by Toby Hulse.
Musical Director for the show is Joshua Goodman.He and his band of musicians presented the music brilliantly and most of the time unseen in various parts of the performance area at the sides and the rear. A lovely clear sound which was balanced well with the vocals of the actors
Directed by Martin Berry. This is so much darker than Disney and the roars, and I don't want to give too much away, from the jungle beasts was positively chilling. There are no "slow" moments in this musical as there's always something to watch, you may have to go and see it twice to get everything ingested. Busy and pacy but you can't take your eyes and ears away from this production.
Designed by Kate Unwin, and as soon as you enter the performance space, that amazing set just takes your breath away. Again, I don't want to give too much of this magical set away, but it really is a feast for the eyes...and that moon.... just spell binding!
The technical stuff is all done by Mark James, The lighting, which by the way is so atmospheric, is the design of Chris Flux and the sound design is by Alex Stein.
The cast is such fun to watch, especially all of the monkeys, led by Mukherjee (Lucas Young) and Chatterjee (Amy Curwood)
I was always a Baloo the bear fan, and Jason Wrightam plays Baloo as a Northern, grumpy bear, trying to teach Mowgli the laws of the jungle. Great fun.
Bagheera, the panther is played, not quite as aloof as Disney's character, more a stronger, sensible panther by Jonathan Salt.
Kaa, the python is a clever creation as she is played by four actors, which at first seems a bit confused but it's not at all and works really well.Becki ScollickTori Hope,Paige Cunningham and Louiesa Harbord play the hypnotising python.
The mother wolf, Raksha, who becomes the surrogate mother to Mowgli is played with a lovely mothering instinct by Hazel Monaghan. Take an hanky for her scenes in Act Two!
Aaron Belcher plays Akela, the head of the wolves with a lovely authority but quite sad, beaten and subdued in Act Two, but I won't say why, as that may spoil it for anyone who comes to see it!
Esther Jumelle Asidi plays Phaona, as well as being, like many of the others involved in this wonderful ensemble.
One actor you may, or may not recognise is Ade Andrews as the mighty tiger, Shere Khan. Ade gets a mighty roar which absolutely curdles the blood and at first makes you jump out of your skin. Afe is probably more well known as "Ezekial Bone" who you may have been escorted by in his Robin Hood Tours in Nottingham and the Magic lantern Tours of the Nottingham Theatre Royal. As his first venture into musical theatre, he did a great job.
The lovely Cibele Ponces Alvarenga plays the human mother in this musical. we start off with her saying farewell to her dead husband, who was killed by Shere Khan. Unaware of where her baby boy had disappeared to, she tended the fire which eventually reunited her with her son, Mowgli. Some gorgeous vocals wrapped around a couple of lovely ballads here.
Mowgli, the man cub, is played by a very talented and very watchable young actor called Mahesh Parmar. He brought out the frightened side of the infant as well as the fun and cheeky side and as we go through the short period of time covered in the musical, we see Mowgli return a favour with bravado as well as reunited with his mother in a lovely heart warming, happy and rousing ending.
"The Jungle Book" was one of the first films I can remember seeing, and now I'm a bit older, this new, darker version is a nice contrast. It's as if the musical has grown up with me.
That said, young kids will also love the meatier version, as well as people of all ages. Truly a musical that you can enjoy as a family because it also sends out several great moralistic messages as well without preaching.
“The Jungle Book” is at Djanogly theatre at Lakeside until Sunday 23 July 2017.
Tickets are £10.00 for children and restricted view, up to £15.00 for the big kids.

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