Review: ‘The Jungle Book’ by Gateway’s Children’s Theater Delights

The Disney tale of Mowgli, a man-cub raised by wolves, comes to life as the Gateway Playhouse Children’s Theater presents The Jungle Book, playing in Patchogue.

I was curious to see the “younger” version of Gateway’s talent pool, and I was not disappointed. The cast of mostly teenagers was outstanding, from the singing to the dancing; they kept me—and my 4-year-old fellow critic—enthralled throughout the entire performance.

The story is told as if read from a book—The Jungle Book, to be exact—and the ensemble sing and dance their way through the tale. The animals we are familiar with—Bagheera the Black Panther, Kaa the Snake, Baloo the Bear and Shere Khan the Tiger—are all cleverly portrayed with costume detail, shrewdly done makeup and the precise movements of the actors portraying them.

Bagheera was exactly as I’d expect him to be in human form—sleek, sarcastic, ultra cool with a slight French accent with a hint of a lisp. Kaa the snake, played by Gateway’s own Scot Allan, perfected the ssssslither in his words and delivered a hilariously good performance as the snarky snake.

Baloo the bear was a riotous mess, from his clumsy antics to his constant mispronunciation of Bagheera’s name, and he more than did justice to the popular song “Bare Necessities.” I could see my nephew’s feet tapping along with the music.

When the wolf family he has grown up with is forced to let him go, Bagheera volunteers to take him back to the man-village, to save him from the man-eating tiger Shere Khan. The antics that ensue are as we all remember them, with necessary – and generally awesome – theatrical modifications.

The elephant troops are ingeniously portrayed by long bamboo stalks with rubber “snouts” at the end. The ensemble would bang their stalks on the stage as they marched around, our Mowgli tailing along, trying to find a way to stay in the jungle.

Mowgli meets Baloo the Bear and demands that Bagheera let him stay in the jungle with Baloo. When Bagheera finally surrenders and leaves the boy with Baloo, the mischievous monkeys, sent by King Louie, snatch Mowgli in search of his knowledge of fire.

With the help of Bagheera and Baloo, Mowgli escapes the monkeys – and what a hilarious scene that was! I could hear my nephew giggling next to me.

After being accepted by a quartet of friendly, musically inclined vultures, Mowgli finally comes face to face with Shere Kahn—whose makeup and surly voice truly does make him look frightening.

This production of The Jungle Book was fun and lively, perfect for kids who are already fans of the movie and books. I love that Gateway has a place for young performers to gain experience on the stage, where they can learn and grow both individually and with their fellow actors. The performance is show in two half-hour acts, with one 15-minute intermission.

Join Gateway this Friday and Saturday morning, August 8 and 9, at 10:30 at the Patchogue Theater, as they wrap up The Jungle Book.

Also playing at the Patchogue Theater through August 9, don’t miss your chance to see the enchanting South Pacific. Legends in Concert will return to Patchogue for a week engagement, August 13–17. Gateway will close its summer season back in Bellport with The Addams Family, August 27–September 13. Visit pacsc.org for more information and to order tickets.

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