REVIEW: DCT’s gloriously professional ‘The Jungle Book’ puts a fresh, athletic, and poetic face on a beloved classic, through April 30

March 13, 2017

Mowgli and the monkeys. The Jungle Book. Photo credit: Becky Toma.

Denver Children’s Theatre has offered professionally-staged children’s theatre programs to school children and the general public for twenty years. The current production of The Jungle Book, directed by DCT’s artistic director Steve Wilson, is as polished, poetic, wonderful, and whimsical as anyone, young or old, could ever wish.

Young Mowgli plays with Father Wolf. Photo by Becky Toma.

Freely adapted from the Rudyard Kipling classic by Greg Banks, the play begins with the ensemble (Rachel Graham, Susannah McLeod, Adrian Egolf, and Ilasiea Gray) relating, then enacting the story of a boy (Trevor Fulton) who wanders into the deepest, darkest jungle, and is adopted by wolves. Far from feral, Mowgli has a knack for charming the most fearsome creatures, except for the fierce man-hating tiger Shere Khan (McLeod).

Shere Kahn (Susannah McLeod) takes a swipe at Baloo the Bear (Rachel Graham). Photo by Becky Toma.

Befriended by the goofy bear Baloo (Graham), and the circumspect panther Bagheera (Egolf), Mowgli runs into trouble with a mischievous bunch of monkeys but is rescued with the help of the beguiling snake Kaa (Gray). Eventually, Mowgli must decide whether to remain with the animals or live with fellow humans but conceives another alternative.

DCT’s The Jungle Book is a shining example of outstanding professional children’s theatre, with top-notch direction, thrilling performances, imaginative sets and costumes, a mainstage budget, and dedicated use of a comfortable and accessible 400-seat venue.

It’s the kind of show that reaches thousands of school children and gives them a thrilling example of how powerful and entertaining live theatre can be. But this show is loads of fun for adults, too.

What struck me most in this universally superior production, is the physicality of the actors, as they inhabit myriad characters, often with mere seconds between full costume changes. Their timing is impeccable, and they have discovered layers of complexity in familiar characters that breathe new life into the story. All this while performing an array of acrobatics and parkour stunts.

Mowgli (Trevor Fulton) with Kaa (Ilasiea Gray) Photo by Becky Toma.

And yet the “humanity” of this talking animal story comes through loud and clear. Perhaps, if we could learn to speak each other’s languages like Mowgli, we might be able to all get along and help one another survive the jungle.

The Jungle Book is presented to the public on Sundays through April 30th at 1 p.m., and to school groups most weekdays through May 5th at 10 a.m. The show is presented in the Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center located at 350 S. Dahlia Street in Denver. Recommended for children ages 6 and up. Tickets for public performances are $9 for children/adults and can be purchased at the box office at 303-316-6360 or online at the Denver Children’s Theatre. For more information regarding weekday school performances call 303-316-6360. Discounts are available for Title I schools.

Click on the image above to purchase a DVD of the recent Jungle Book feature film.

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