Arts & Entertainment

‘Jungle Book’ Showcases Young Talent at the Cauldron

MOWGLI, played by Enola Danewitz (center), talks with Bagheera, played by Gabriela Simmons-Robles (left) and Baloo, played by Will Stevenson, in the Creative Cauldron’s musical production of “The Jungle Book.” The show will run until Nov. 24. (Photo: Courtesy Ellen Selby)

Falls Church’s remarkable Creative Cauldron has done it again, staging a new musical production based on Rudyard Kipling’s book, “The Jungle Book,” at its black box digs on S. Maple Ave. The Cauldron’s founding and producing director, Laura Connors Hull, joined Ellen Selby to craft the adaption of the play as part of the Cauldron’s Learning Theater.

It’s mostly kids putting on the show, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t truly entertaining and a great portal into the feel-good glories of the holiday season. It runs through Nov. 24 (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) with shows on Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 and Sundays at 2 and 4 p.m.

What makes this production so engaging, in addition to the Kipling story itself and the performances of the many youth involved, are the costumes and masks that transform the kids into wolves and panthers, and two-headed snakes, and bears and more, and the captivating music, original numbers by the Cauldron’s peerless team of Matt Connor and Stephen Gregory Smith.

Any time you see the names of Connor and Smith on a show marquee, it is worth heading inside for that alone. This show includes 13 original songs, from the opening “Law of the Jungle” ensemble number to a reprise of “The Fire Inside You” that wraps it up.

The costumes, masks and puppets are the work of Margie Jervis, bringing vividly alive the world of the jungle. While adults Will Stevenson and Gus Knapp add important elements to the cast, it is the Learning Theater students who are the heart of the show, bringing energy and a no-holds-barred verve to their movements, songs and dramatic effects, owing to the direction of Selby and Hull, the music and choreography of Connor and lyrics of Smith.

Singled out among the young actors is the young woman playing the featured role, Enola Danewitz as Mowgli, the human child who finds himself raised among the wolves of the jungle. Other youthful veterans of the Learning Theater with prominent roles in this production are Gabriela Simmons-Robles, Owen Thiebert, Miri Brooke, Mai Gabra, Carmen Ortiz, Libby Brooke and Sofia Marcus. All have been in numerous Cauldron productions of the last couple years, ranging from “Beauty and the Beast,” “Madeline’s Christmas,” “On Air,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Turn of the Screw” and “Christman Cabin of Carnaween.”

For all its color and music, the performance has depth and more drama than maybe a few younger kids in the audience bargained for. Nonetheless, that gives it more of value to chew on for all the rest.

In addition to the many local businesses involved in supporting the Cauldron, “The Jungle Book” is sponsored by the Goldfish Swim School.

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