Review: ‘The Jungle Book’ at Encore Stage & Studio by Emma Kiely

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Man’s desire to know the ways of the jungle and its creatures has been captured in Encore Stage & Studio’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The story of Mowgli’s (Ryely Rogers) schooling and triumph over Shere Khan (Kate Gillen) is told with the help of enthusiastic villagers and a colorful menagerie of jungle animals. The bear Baloo (Tara Hall) teach Mowgli jungle law under the instruction of Father Wolf (Bryant Williams). When Shere Khan tries to take rule of the jungle from the aging Father Wolf, and destroy Mowgli in the process, the “man cub” uses a gift from the “ruined city” and enlists the villagers’ knowledge to stop the tiger from taking the jungle.

The wolf pack teaches Mowgli the way of the Jungle. From left to right: Wolf 1 (Sam Regardie), Wolf 4 (Riley Dennis), Wolf 2 (Caroline Raymond), and Wolf 3 (Kylen Davis). Photo by Larry McClemons.

The simple and imaginative set, including a cleverly constructed climbable tree and green lights that betray a dark jungle, allows the characters room enough to become larger than life with their interpretive costumes and delightful dialogue. Rogers takes on the role of Mowgli with gusto, delivering lines with determined certainty, including her recitation of the moral “Don’t be easily fooled by words, it’s deeds that count,” proving it with every movement she makes. Shere Khan (Gillen) and minion Tabaqui (Natalia Vilela) have chemistry as clear as the laughter they produce together, with Vilela’s one-liners and adorable character movement delighting the audience. Rikki and Tikki (Liz and Susan Rotherham) provide humor to the menagerie as well with their timing and well choreographed movements about the stage. King Monkey (Declan Roberts), however, is the king of comedy in this production and spares no movement or facial expression that could elicit laughter from the audience. The ensemble scenes are the strongest of this production, with each character, including the villagers, working together to produce the sounds and spirit of the jungle and the life around it.

From left to right: Bagheera (Gia Jackson), Baloo (Kyra Radomsky), Mowgli (Ryely Rogers), Kaa (Tara Hall), and King Monkey (Declan Roberts). Photo by Aileen Pangan.

This funny, clever, and creative production of The Jungle Book, directed by Martha-Grace B. Moore, is a sweet take on the timeless story of a boy taking care of the home, and people, he loves, transcending the boundaries of difference. Performed by a cast as funny, clever, and creative as the story they tell, The Jungle Book by Encore Stage & Studio, a theatre for kids, by kids, proves a delightful night at the theatre.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

The Jungle Book plays through from June 11, 2017, at Encore Stage & Studio performing at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater – 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.

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