You’d be forgiven to having some trepidation in going to watch The Jungle Book at The Lowry this week. The Children’s Touring Partnership have adapted the Rudyard Kipling tale from his books for a family orientated musical. A bold move considering that there is a more famous Disney version that most people have come to love and cherish. Nonetheless, this Jungle Book version more than stands on its own two feet that appeals to all ages and has you tapping your feet to the show tunes.
I needn’t have worried. Jessica Swale has excellently adapted the stories of the man cub Mowgli and his adventures with his animal cohorts of Akela, Bagheera and Balloo. Joe Stilgoe provides the music, which is the cornerstone to this production, giving the cast the threads to weave a magical tale that captivates the younger members of the audience.
This production has certainly had fun making this version. You can tell that it embraces the spirit of Kipling’s books wholeheartedly. The set is made up of wooden ladders, both hanging on the stage and hanging down from it. A visual set of steps that look like a forest full of stalactites and stalagmites. The innovative use of lighting also adds to the ambience and you can see how something so simple can be transformed into a forest found in an Indian Jungle.
The characters’ costumes also provide a clue to the sense of frivolity within this adaptation. From the stripey cat suit for Shere Khan to the patchwork dungarees for Balloo, there’s a sense of idiosyncrasies inherent in each of the characters.
The actors on stage seem to have also been inspired by these props and clothes. They are excellently cast and fully play up to the nuances of their roles. Deborah Oyelade gives a feisty performance as the black panther Bagheera, whilst Dyfrig Morris is outlandishly loveable as the roguish Balloo. Lloyd Gorman fiendishly plays the villainous Shere Khan whilst the hero of the piece, the man cub Mowgli, is wonderfully portrayed by Keziah Joseph.
Director Max Webster could have easily have presided over a safe paint by number musical. Yet The Jungle Book is anything but. There is an element of incorporating the band within the stage, the innovative use of puppetry throughout is a nice change in pace and the choreography is subtle and not overpowering that some musicals can be guilty of.
Not all the elements work, but being a perfectionist is missing the point. What’s more for a show that is aimed at a family audience and one that perhaps could lean towards pleasing the younger crowd, it was just as engaging for those that are little more longer in the tooth.
Verdict: A wonderfully fun and frolicsome adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Innovative set allied with a whirltastic choreography, standout performances and musical numbers that will have you dancing and singing in your seat!
What: The Jungle Book
Where: The Lowry
When: 3rd May 2018