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August 17, 2004 > The Jungle Book Opens at Stage 1

The Jungle Book Opens at Stage 1

by Mekala Raman

I recently viewed a rehearsal for the children's play The Jungle Book that opens next week at Stage 1 Theatre. Several months of hard work are paying off as the young actors are preparing jazzy tunes and developing characters illustrating the life of Mowgli and his fight against the vicious tiger Shere Khan. Famous songs from the Disney version and new songs, created specifically for the play, are interspersed within the dialogue to tell the story. The play introduces Mowgli, a young boy stranded in the jungle, who is helped by a variety of animals to survive without his parents or other humans.

Wolves, who adopt Mowgli, assemble at Council Rock to discuss Mowgli's future and his odds against Shere Khan. Baloo, the bear, Bagheera, the panther and Kaa, the python are Mowgli's mentors and guide him through every aspect of life. The play diverts from the Disney storyline, portraying Kaa as a wise adviser who helps Baloo and Bagheera to raise their "man cub" rather than the comic misfit that is shown in the Disney movie. The relationship of the play to Rudyard Kipling's classic story of the same name is minor, at best, but the play is very entertaining nonetheless.

Aside from the original Jungle Book and Disney characters, there are peacocks, bats, a mongoose named Riki Tiki Tavi, and a jackal - Shere Khan's sidekick. Instead of King Louie (the vain orangutan), Stage 1 will feature Queen Lulu. This variety of characters calls for numerous costumes and parents and volunteers have done an outstanding job of creating approximately fifty costumes in every color imaginable. The orange orangutan glows contrasting with little brown monkeys and a blue Baloo.

The young actors are enjoying their rehearsals with director Belinda Maloney. "I really like the experience," says Brett Jenson (13) who plays Shere Khan in the play. "Belinda is a good director." This is Jenson's first time acting with Stage 1 and he is enjoying the experience along with friends Brandon Deadwiler (9), who plays Mowgli, and Austin Weir (9), who plays Kaa. All three have performed in shows with Belinda though Brett and Brandon are new to Stage 1; Austin is acting in his second Stage 1 production. Musical and vocal director Daina Joly has been working with the cast along with Kevin and Stacy Hammond, who choreographed the musical numbers.

The Jungle Book opens on the August 19th at Newark Memorial High School at 7:30 p.m. Performances will continue at 7:30 p.m. on the 20th, 21st, 26th, 27th, 28th and at 2:30 p.m. on the 22nd and 29th. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children. To purchase tickets call (510) 791-0287, go to, or visit The Book End bookstore in Newark.

The Jungle Book
August 19 - 29
Stage 1 Theatre
(Newark Memorial High School)
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287

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