Mark A. Philbrick, BYU
Joshua Mora, left, Zakary Kirkpatrick and Danica Donaldson star in BYU's "The Jungle Book."

THE JUNGLE BOOK, Theatre for Young Audiences, Harris Fine Arts Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, through Feb. 16 (422-4322), running time: 45 minutes (no intermission)

PROVO — It's a jungle out there, and the Brigham Young University department of theater and media arts is telling it like it is to children through "The Jungle Book," a play based on the familiar story by Rudyard Kipling.

When Kipling was a young boy, he moved from India to England to attend school. What he found was excessive bullying and occasional beatings. It was not what he expected. When he grew up he channeled his feelings into "The Jungle Book" story.

The rendition by BYU's Theatre for Young Audiences holds close to Kipling's original tale. This is not to be confused with the Disney animated film version. In this tale, Shere Khan (July Simmons), Mowgli (Zakary Kirkpatrick), Baloo (Ashly Leavitt), Bagheera (Cherish Caldwell) and the rest address the values of justice and mercy and the hard line on bullying.

So, do how the kids like it? Quite a bit. Here's what one 12-year-old said:

"It was a great show and funny. The costumes are great. They had a lot of energy, and with such a small set, it fills the room with it. The settings are interesting with six different panels showing scenes of places in the show. This is a great show for ages 3 to adults. Some jokes are funny for kids and some for adults. It's a good show to go see for some great family time."

Many of the children were fascinated by the baby Mowgli moving his arms and legs. They weren't sure how a doll did that. (It was through creative puppetry.)

In addition to some great special effects, the costumes were bright, colorful and actually told a part of the story as they changed throughout the play.

The cast did a nice job of telling a story that affects so many of today's children. Others included in the company are Danica Donaldson, Sarah Sanchez, Joshua Mora, Camilla Whitney and Jennifer Thomas.

The show is a perfect length for children and allows time for question-and-answer sessions with the cast following the performance. In coming days the production will be taken to more than 60 schools and libraries around the state.

Information packages are sent to teachers, and the cast hopes there will be important discussion on bullying, justice and mercy.

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