A fifth-grader playing Mowgli seemed to have a great time being adopted by wolves, grabbed by monkeys and stalked by a tiger in an Oklahoma City Theatre Company staging of "The Jungle Book.” Having almost as much fun as performers were spectators attending this version of Rudyard Kipling’s classic, which opened Friday in the Freede Theatre at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker. Piedmont fifth-grader Ethan Power got across the spunk and boyish limitations of Mowgli, trying to learn jungle law and become part of the wolf pack, but half wanting to play with the monkeys, as well. Paul Armstrong was grouchy and irascible but lovable and loving as the bear, Baloo, Mowgli’s chief instructor, and David Mays gave the right hints of hot-tempered pride to Bagheera the panther. Clad in a red turban and sash, sporting a red tail, Judson Adair conveyed the unpleasant, villainous qualities of the gimpy tiger, Shere Khan, and Rich Bailey gave the right acidic, jaundiced edge to Kaa, the python. Doug Van Liew was just world-weary and regal enough as Akela, struggling to maintain his position as the aging leader of the wolf pack, and Deborah Draheim made the mother wolf’s love for Mowgli believable. But the monkey clan, played by Ian Clinton, Megan Bednarz, Jole Schrimsher, Carly Conklin and Blake Brockhaus, seemed to have the most fun. Coming down from the trees to screech and start sentences and thoughts they forgot to finish, or clowning with each other and the audience, the five performers were irresistible. Danielle Coody also had some comic moments as a jackal, opportunistically willing to either join the tiger conspiracy or oppose it, and Donna Mackie was delightful as a bird with an above-it-all viewpoint. The script was adapted by Erin Hicks-Cheek and Rick Cheek, with recorded music and original songs supplied by Ryan Healy and Jake Stinson. With minimal props and sets, the production was enjoyable and engaging as performers moved freely through the audience. Directed by Tim Berg, it is recommended to all ages. — John BrandenburgComments
"The Jungle Book”→Performances: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Dec. 20, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21. →Tickets: $16 for adults; and $12 for seniors 65 or over, and students with identification. →Information: 573-8971 or 297-2264, or www.okctheatrecompany.org.