Nancy Sasso Janis
The Young Actors at the Warner Theatre Center for Arts Education are presenting an adorable production of ‘Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids’ on Warner Main Stage this weekend. Sheila Waters Fucci directed and choreographed the students and Dawn Marie Conroy provided their musical direction.
A man cub named Mowgli and his panther friend, Bagheera have been banished by the tiger Shere Khan and are on the run in the deepest parts of the jungle. Along the way, they meet a sinister snake named Kaa, an (adorable) herd of elephants and a giant bear named Baloo, who has plenty of musical talent. They survive a dangerous encounter with a band of monkeys led by King Louie but then are forced to run for their lives. When Shere Khan returns, our heroes rally their fellow animals into battle and restore peace throughout the jungle.
Ms. Fucci, or “Miss Sheila” to the students, made this colorful production even better with her smart choreography for her young dancers and every one of them did their best to pull it all off. Even the curtain call ended with choreography as family members and friends cheered. They also knew their lyrics and sang with conviction every one of the fun numbers, some familiar to the adults because they appeared in the classic Disney film. Ms. Conroy conducted the musicians in the pit while playing keyboard, with Michael Conroy on guitar and Conor Ryan on percussion.
The adorable members of the jungle chorus all adopted their roles with spirit. David Stewart and Riley Delaney were vultures, while Conio Lopardo and Mary Sullivan played the tallest monkeys. Tap dancing elephants (I know!) were Molly D’Angelo, Paige Blanchard, Calista Oria and Abby Foulds (and others) with Nola Schaller as an adorable baby elephant.
Julia Busemeyer played Shanti, the girl cub in the final scene, and Jake Asheim was scary as Shere Khan. Thaddeus Asheim enjoyed the comic role of the monkey with the crown, King Louie and sang well. Thomas Busemeyer was strong as Colonel Hathi, chief elephant. Emily Russell could both hiss and belt when necessary as the large boa Kaa, and Emily Wallace, Carlista Oria, Madeline Colasanto, and Madelynne Leach backed her up as her coils.
Allison Nadeau had a fine voice to play a singing coconut tree. Brendan Harris totally looked the part of the man cub Mowgli and also sang well. Alyssa Archambault did a great job with the role of the panther Bagheera, valiantly trying to get Mowgli to the human village.
In the role of the bear Baloo, Trevor Rinaldi was a natural, as always. With perfect comic timing, this young man who played Little Boy Edgar in ‘Ragtime’ is completely “on” throughout the show. As Ms. Fucci writes about her students, they “are the future of The Warner” and I hope Mr. Rinaldi is never far from its stage.
The multi-colored set was designed by Les Ober and featured rolling carts to hide actors and at one point trampolines. Costumes by the director were quite inspired, and there was a large costume crew that helped her out. Tyler’s mom Michelle helped the director with the props and Isabel Carrington provided the lovely projections.
Congratulations to all the talented Warner students and the adults who work with them throughout the year on a wonderful show. With the intermission, the musical was one hour in length and perfect for the youngest audience members. Remaining performances are Saturday evening and a Sunday matinee.
Photos of the cast by Isabel Carrington