The Jungle Book is about a young “man-cub,” named Mowgli, who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India. Mowgli goes to school and learns the rules of the jungle from Baloo, the bear, and Bagheera, the Jaguar. Mowgli and his animal friends work together to defeat the evil tiger, Shere Khan and the comical “Bander Log”(which are the Hindi words for “The Monkey People”). In the end Mowgli is reunited with his human mother or “mataji” in a heartwarming scene in which Mowgli recognizes the physical similarities between himself and Messua, his mother.
When I first entered Imagination Stage, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful jungle greenery, complete with vines hanging from the ceiling. At first, there was a large brown, round object in the middle of the stage. I was unsure of what it was. It turned out to be the center of action throughout the scenes. During a question and answer section with the actors, after the performance, I asked stage manager, Jennifer Schwartz, what the unknown object was. She informed me that it was supposed to be a large tree on one side and the snake’s cave on the other side.
Thanks to Ethan Sinnott, the set designer, I felt the sun shining down through the trees in the jungles of India. The young and restless audience members became quiet in their seats from the moment the show began. The Indian villagers carried candles flickering in the darkness. Chimes tinkled, and the performers chanted Sanskrit folksongs. The audience was hooked right away.
The show repeated the universal theme by singing “One spirit, one world, we be of one blood, you and I”. In the song “One Blood,” the audience was invited to join in and seemed to enjoy learning the different languages of the animals of the jungle. It shows that no matter how different we are, we all need each other. Children will be able to relate to the bickering between Mowgli and his wolf cub sister. The two call each other “fur face” and “frog legs”. Finally, the sister gets put in a “time-out” for calling Mowgli dumb. Mowgli learns that different isn’t bad when he expresses his disdain for his fingers (instead of paws) or as he says, “twigs for paws”.
I talked to Brownie troupe number 2961 after the show. They all agreed their favorite characters were the two monkeys, played by Nadya Chacon and, Helen Hayes Award Winner Jenna Sokolowsi (she won for Best Supporting Actress as Little Sally in Signature Theatre’s production of Urinetown at the 2006 Awards ceremony).
Many children and parents will find the high-energy antics of the primates very entertaining, although some will find their jokes old and repetitive. Don’t get me wrong – Nadya and Jenna do a spectacular job portraying these two characters. It’s just that the script alone is just not funny. The Brownie troupe also told me the show was confusing at times and, they wouldn’t recommend it to their friends. I agree. At first I had trouble identifying the characters because the costumes all looked the same, tails and ears. It was also difficult for a child to understand the show because the actors were switching between three languages almost every other line. Although they provided a translation of some words in the program, it would be nice if there were subtitles, or some translation easy to follow during the songs. Also, I do not think my younger sisters would have enjoyed the show.
My personal favorite character was Baloo, the bear, played by Sasha Olinick. He gave a wonderful vocal performance and I especially enjoyed the dance when he falls under the hypnotic spell of Kaa, the snake, played by Jeri Marshall.
Running Time: 90 minutes with a 15 minute intermission
Recommended for Ages: 4 and up
When: Through Nov 4th.
Where: Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Avenue Bethesda, Md
Info: Call 301-280-1660, or visit the website
Meet DC Theatre Scene’s newest reviewer Jonny Perl:
Jonny Perl, 12, is in the seventh grade at Loiederman Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He is thrilled to be writing for DC Theatre Scene. He loves to perform, especially musical theatre. He dances tap and jazz and can sing from a low “E” to a high “A”. His favorite musical is “Hairspray”. When Jonny is not performing, he enjoys taking care of his three younger sisters.