Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book KIDS’ to hit the stage

Robert Parks, as Colonel Hatai, addresses Mowgli, played by Django Burgess, and the ranks of elephants.

The jungle chorus remains on stage for the entire show.

Will Banfield, as King Louie, and Django Burgess, as Mowgli, discuss what it means to be human.

The monkeys never get “tired of monkeying around.”

Bagheera, played by Gwyndolyn Bode, and Baloo, played by Autumn Blakemore, open the show.

Kaa played by Madison Lawson, and Kaa’s Coils: Amy Cockerham, Riley Stanley, Anna Cockerham, Sarah Martin, and Annika Burgess.

MOUNT AIRY — Disney’s “The Jungle Book KIDS,” directed by Joshua Whitt with musical director Jane Tesh, is being brought to life by more than 45 children from Surry County and beyond. Based on the children’s tale by Rudyard Kipling, the show will be performed at the Andy Griffith Playhouse on June 19, 20, and 21.

With extensive theater experience throughout the southeast, Whitt is now directing his third show at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. “This cast is exceedingly aggressive in their desire to put on the best possible show,” Whitt said, explaining how quickly they memorized lines and music.

“The talented and accomplished visual and performing artists behind the scenes have really moved the show along,” said Whitt.

Tesh has served as musical director on numerous plays, including Disney’s “The Little Mermaid JR,” in addition to other roles at the Surry Arts Council. A talented artist, Susan Michaels is overseeing the set decorating and has spent countless hours painting and creating props for numerous shows.

Marie Poole, a newcomer to the Surry Arts Players, is making more than 50 jungle animal costumes including monkeys, elephants and a tiger. Stage Manager Rebekah Taylor has acting and executive experience with the Walt Disney Company.

Youth who participate in the production have an opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is not found in other places. Andy Atkins, long-time participant, has seen improved self-esteem and confidence in his children. “Schools try to nurture creativity, but can’t do it to the same level,” Atkins said. “Here the kids are really free to express themselves.”

One parent, Emily Burgess, having been involved in other theater companies with her children, described the experience at the Andy Griffith Playhouse as “more structured, professional, and larger scale.”

Tobi York, mother of the 7-year-old actor, Walker, expressed her son’s love for the theater. “He has been in other shows, so he knew the time commitment and hard work that goes into it. He still chose to give up swim and karate to be here.”

The show is full of action, humor and catchy tunes. On the run from Shere Khan (played by Eric Riggs), a ferocious tiger who has banished him from the jungle, a human boy named Mowgli (played by Django Burgess) is aided by an agile panther named Bagheera (Gwyndolyn Bode).

Along the way, the two meet a sinister snake named Kaa (Madison Lawson), a herd of elephants, and a giant bear named Baloo (Autumn Blakemore), who teaches them swingin’ musical rhythms of the jungle. After surviving a dangerous encounter with a band of monkeys led by King Louie (Will Banfield), Mowgli and Bagheera are forced to run for their lives. Shere Khan returns, leading the protagonists to rally their fellow jungle creatures into battle and restore peace to the jungle.

This production is adapted from the classic film and includes all the favorite Disney tunes, like “The Bare Necessities,” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.”

The cast includes Django Burgess, Gwyndolyn Bode, Autumn Blakemore, Eric Riggs, Robert Parks, Peyton Martel, Will Banfield, Raegan Amos, Wyn Hampton, Madison Lawson, Nauria Edwards, Anna Cockerham, Amy Cockerham, Riley Stanley, Sarah Martin, Anika Burgess, Ava Utt, Anna Windsor, Sara Windsor, Isaac Riggs, Maddie Kennedy, Riley Arnder, Zinnia Burgess, Sam Martin, Covia Laws, Hollie James, Daphne Dotson, Abby Brady, Kaylee Watoner, Cora Branch, Emma Brady, Reese Whitaker, Nicole Sawyers, Avayeh Wall, Maria Windsor, Ella Riggs, Jax Whitaker, Carolyn Williams, Daniel Atkins, Walker York, Sarah Martin, Jessica Smith, Elena McComb, Olivia Dotson, Molly Easter, and Macey James.

Disney’s “The Jungle Book KIDS” show dates are June 19, 20, and 21 at 3 p.m. All performances will be held at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Tickets are on sale now; $11 for adults and $6 for children 12 and younger. Call 336-786-7998 or visit www.surryarts.org.

Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.

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