By Ryan Hayworth
Travel from the urban jungle to the jungles of India through eye-popping video, shadow play and original music with Jungle Book on April 4 at The Lincoln Center. Audiences will see beloved characters like Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther and everyone’s favorite human cub, Mowgli, come to life in a fresh new way in this immersive theatre experience.
Co-creative directors of Jungle Book, Craig Francis and Rick Miller, have taken a unique approach to this classic that we all know and love by setting it in a modern setting. The story is reimagined for a new generation that tackles many issues in society, while still holding true to the original storyline.
Adapted from the original works of Rudyard Kipling, Miller and Francis have formulated a creative twist that addresses our endangered natural world and our relationship with it. This production feels cinematic but also incorporates classic theatre aspects.
“Audiences will have moments of ‘How did they do that?’ and feel like they are watching a movie but it’s a live experience,” says Francis.
The use of various theatre techniques in this production helps it feel more personal to the audience. Francis and Miller embody meta theatre, a form of art that includes the actors interacting with the audience.
“With meta theatre, we can create a sense of urgency and that you need to hear this story,” says Francis. “This makes it feel more authentic and young people connect with that better. By doing this, the narrator makes us feel safe.”
Another important theatrical aspect of the production is shadow play. With it, they can create a life-size representation of the jungle with only a few people.
“With only four actors, using shadows allows for more play, and the light and dark aspect in the show relates to all of us in one way or another,” says Francis. “The production manipulates lights, shadows and fabric to create different environments, whether they are natural, unnatural or theatrical. This way, we can create a jungle full of life while only using a few performers.”
“We wanted the people to feel—even in a stylized way—that they’re actually being transported to the different parts of the jungle and different parts within the book without having a leaf or a tree on the stage,” Miller said.
While most people have seen or at least heard of the classic version of the Jungle Book, fewer people know about Mowgli leaving the jungle. In this adaptation, Francis and Miller bring in facets of Second Jungle Book to compose a more complete story that ties in new details that most people aren’t aware of.
“So even those who think they know the Jungle Book will find some surprises on tap,” says Miller. “The whole family will enjoy every minute of it.”
Get lost in the jungle on a wild adventure in this inventive and timely take on the beloved classic—Jungle Book—on April 4 at The Lincoln Center. All seats $15 at LCtix.com.