Just when I was beginning to think my oldest was starting to become “too old” for Adventure Theatre MTC, they knocked it out of the park, and proved me wrong with their current production “The Jungle Book.”
While the play is based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, I’m willing to guess many families are most familiar with the story thanks to the classic Disney movie. Bottom line, with this version of the story so commonly associated with The Jungle book, tackling this story is no small feat and Adventure Theatre succeeded. All the way to the production, I was thinking about the playful, whimsical Disney movie but in reality, Adventure Theatre MTC transformed Kipling’s tale into a serious, creative and compelling drama for older elementary-aged kids. Don’t get me wrong, my five-year-old was also taken with the show, but it was my 2nd grader and her friends, up to 4th grade, who were transfixed.
I watched the girls throughout the show because I know I’m writing the review but it’s really about the kids – and if the kids are reacting – or not reacting – that’s how I know what I’m going to write. Typically I find Adventure Theatre productions parallel the approach of a Pixar film; they are usually silly, whimsical and have jokes for adults and kids. Not this one. I hesitate to call “The Jungle Book” a drama but it almost really is a drama. It isn’t a silly, light tale.
Mowgli, the orphaned boy raised by wolves, has grown into an adolescent and his mentors, the friendly bear Baloo and the worrisome, anxious panther Bagheera, fret over how to help him survive the jungle and protect him from his greatest foe, Shere Khan, the Bengali tiger. Notably different from the movie, the wolf pack leader who rescued Mowgli and raised him, a female wolf, has a pivotal role in the play, demonstrating the strength and power of a female pack leader.
I kept waiting for the jokes and the pranks. And aside from the silly monkeys, they didn’t really come. The story follows the path to growing up, of forging your own path and learning from your mistakes, and facing your fears. It’s the Adventure Theatre all grown up. Seriously. My 5-year-old loved the costumes and the silly monkeys, she was taken with the snake and generally loved seeing all the animals but she did grow restless before the end of the 45-minute production.
But the older kids – they were absorbed into the story. Naturally they noted Mowgli wasn’t wearing a shirt (“Eww!”) because they’re little kids but that didn’t stop them from raving about the production once it was over. They talked about it all the way home from the show and the true test – were still talking about it the next day and the day after. Personally, I’d like to give props to the creative genius behind Shera Khan’s costume. If you plan to go, make a point to find the forks on the front of his costume. Who thought “hey, forks will complete the look of this menacing, evil, tiger?” Not just who thought that one up, but who successfully completed the costume with those forks? I was delighted when my eyes fell over that detail and several of my friends commented on the same thing after the show.
If that isn’t a reason to load your elementary school aged kids into the car and head to Adventure Theatre for some spring time arts & theater, I don’t what is. We are lucky to live here and have such access to the creative arts catered to our young kids and personally, I’m grateful to such places as Adventure Theatre MTC.
You can see “The Jungle Book” through May 25th, tickets are $19 and can be purchased online.
Disclosure: The Adventure Theatre invited me and my family to see the show the night before it opened. My opinions here are all my own.