(L-R) Levin Valayil, Matt Lacas and Anita Mujumdar in "Jungle Book" at Pasadena Playhouse (Photo - Gary W. Sweetman).

      (L-R) Levin Valayil, Matt Lacas and Anita Mujumdar in “Jungle Book” at Pasadena Playhouse (Photo – Gary W. Sweetman).

      The Pasadena Playhouse is having a short run of this reimagined staging of Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” and the children in the audience on opening night showed their appreciation with laughs, rapt attention, and lots of applause.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      It’s very much for children, but the art and creative effects of the set design provided plenty of visual stimulation for all ages.

      Craig Francis and Rick Miller, the co-creators/directors/writers, have succeeded in producing a stage-wide, full-bodied presentation with only four actors and a less than Disney level budget. Digital screens, unique human-animal puppets, theatrical fire, interactive technology, and even shadow hand puppets were employed. The projections on the transparent screens were amazingly 3-D and served to make each scene fill the entire stage space.

      The twist is that Mowgli, rather than just being banished to the local village, emigrates to New York City from India and becomes an architect (and I believe he gets his citizenship, too). Don’t groan! – it works perfectly to bring in the “urban jungle” aspect of his longing for his old family and ways, as he realizes that designing nature-free skyscrapers makes him miss the jungle even more. Thus we join his magical journey to his beginnings in the jungle, and the magical journey begins. The usual suspects are all there – Shere Khan the predatory tiger, Kaa the python, Baloo the bear, and Bagheera the black panther.

      Anita Mujumdar and Miriam Fernandes in "Jungle Book" at Pasadena Playhouse (Photo - Gary W. Sweetman).

      Anita Mujumdar and Miriam Fernandes in “Jungle Book” at Pasadena Playhouse (Photo – Gary W. Sweetman).

      Although it’s not really a “musical,” there are some songs and poems from the original work, and it’s during those moments that the cast works its ability to connect with the audience and draw us into the jungle.

      There are only four cast members, but they play multiple rolls so seamlessly that you would swear there was a much bigger cast. It only runs through July 29, but there are matinee, evening, and weekend performances, and their air conditioning works well, so grab the kiddies and enjoy the jungle while you can.

      Jungle Book
      • Co-Creators/Writers/Directors – Craig Francis and Rick Miller
      • Cast:
      Levin Valayil – Mowgli
      Miriam Fernandes – Shere Khan, Kaa, Maya, others
      Matt Lacas – Baloo, Akela, Buldeo, others
      Anita Majumdar – Bagheera, Raksha, Messua, others
      Pasadena Playhouse
      39 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

      • Performances:
      7/22 – 1 pm and 4 pm
      7/24 – 8 pm
      7/25 – 10 am
      7/26 – 2 pm and 8 pm
      7/27 – 8 pm
      7/28 – 2 pm and 7:30 pm
      7/29 – 1 pm and 4 pm
      (Some discount tickets available at Goldstar.com).
      Purchase tickets here.

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