“The Jungle Book” is probably best known to contemporary audiences for the musical Disney version, but Short North theater company CATCO is presenting its own adaptation of “The Jungle Book” beginning this weekend.
The play, based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book, features a cast of children and adults alike. Audiences can expect an immersive experience, said director Joe Bishara.
“The audience is on three sides of the actors. It’s really up close and personal,” Bishara said. “It’s trying to bring a great piece of literature to life on the stage.”
CATCO focuses most of its productions toward literature, and aims to spark imagination and creativity with its performances, Bishara said.
Andrew Protopapas, who plays Mowgli, said the show is a coming-of-age story. This is emphasized with a child actor playing young Mowgli for the beginning portion of the show.
“Through the events of the play, (Mowgli) gets his eyes opened and he understands,” Protopapas said. “As time progresses, he reaches a point where he’s grown and … he has to learn how to take his place with man instead of taking his place with the animals.”
Bishara said the adaptation will not be a “bear necessities” type of production but rather, a love letter to Rudyard Kipling’s story.
Protopapas also said the depth and even intensity found in this show gives it a different element from the Disney version.
“There is some life and death sequences attributed to the story sequence,” Bishara said. “It’s something you should see.”
At the same time, by incorporating children into the production, the show is different from a full adult cast, which is what most performances use.
“With all adult performers, it was a bit intense,” Bishara said. “I was really fascinated by having children cast in the roles.”
Adapting works like “The Jungle Book” is the job of playwright Steven Anderson. Anderson acts as producing director at CATCO in addition to writing many of the company’s plays.
“This is one of (Anderson’s) original works and it’s a great script,” Protopapas said. “Watching these lines on paper and words become so dense and alive onstage (has) been so fun and inspiring to watch.”
Although seemingly aimed at children, Protopapas said there’s something for everyone to enjoy and audiences can expect a performance full of emotion and life lessons.
“It is such a fascinating script and I get the biggest smile during certain parts of the show because I just think they’re so cool,” he said. “You get the idea that this (story) has been passed down through generations.”
“The Jungle Book” runs this weekend and next at Studio Two at the Riffe Center, located at 77 S. High St. Tickets are $10 for kids, and $20 for adults. Friday shows start at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday shows at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.