On Monday June, 6 The Missoula Children’s Theater (MCT) made their highly anticipated appearance at the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center (CLCEC). Traveling in their “little red truck” loaded down with a set, lights, costumes, props, and make-up, everything it takes to put on a play—well except for the cast.
That Monday morning the MCT team held an open audition to cast up to 60 local children to perform in the musical production, The Jungle Book. All MCT productions are a twist on the classic children’s stories and fairytales that we all know and love.
50 children ranging from preschool to high school from this and surrounding communities showed up for the open audition and each of them were cast and had a part before noon that day. Rehearsals were split up with a morning and afternoon session over the course of the next 4 days where the actors all rehearsed their lines, and the stage was assembled.
By Friday June 10 all the hard work that the actors and the behind-the-scenes directors put in over the course of 4 days would be on full display as The Jungle Book was performed live not once, but twice. The shows were nearly sold out as the onlookers took their seats with their popcorn and snacks, thanks to the CLCEC concession stand. The lights dimmed and the show began.
Have you ever been abandoned in the jungle, adopted by wolves, taught by a bear, befriended by a panther and chased by a tiger? In this Missoula Children’s Theatre musical adaptation of THE JUNGLE BOOK Mowgli the man-cub played by Jared Splitter (Young Mowgli played by Itzi Ramirez), has all these adventures and more.
The crowd watched as Mowgli escaped from the Monkey-People played by Autumn Lowe, Creed Uhland, Brentley McLoud, Brody Eikenberg, Claire Webster, Gracelynn Lynch, Jessilynn Johnson, Jett Deines, Kaleb Shotton, Sage Uhland, Sawyer Uhland, Saylor Uhland and Waylon Eikenberg.
Mowgli’s adopted family the wolf pack and pups played by Harry Lynch, Jaselyn Muth, Joel Splitter, Talia Webster, Brystal Bletzacker, Charleigh Grant, Decca Brown, Ellie Scott, Gage Gibbs, Reona Eikenberg, and Wyatt Van Campen were led by their fearless leader Akela played by Jeremiah Lombardo. Aunt Wolf, played by Sophie Mitchell, Uncle Wolf played by Anthony Mitchell, and Wolfy played by Piper Uhland along with the rest of the pack were left with the decision whether to turn the man-cub over to Shere Khan, the evil tiger, or face him themselves.
Baloo, played by MCT actor Lorna Patterson and Bagheera played by Tehya Graham, used the lessons from the story of the brave mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi played by Cheyenne Brown, Darzee played by Charleigh Lowe and the Cobras Nag played by Riley Mitchell and Nagaina played by Carmen McPherson to explore what it means to be human. The duo also enlisted the help of a rock-python named Kaa played by, Azi Lucero, Calen Hoffman, Dekota Lowe, Hudson Uhland, Hunter Lombardo, Miranda Kepler, Silas Webster, and Tess Van Campen to outwit the cunning and dangerous vengeance seeking tiger, Shere Kahn played ferociously by Colin Nelson.
The crowd enjoyed the humor of Tabaqui the sly Jackel played by Brasen Wollert who was helping Shere Khan capture Mowgli as well as the musings of Buck, the ever lost and always punning deer played by Garren Wollert who just never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. And lastly, no one will soon forget the small, yet mighty, and loud Hathi played perfectly by Charlie Prince, the elephant who ran around stage warning of a “stampede!!” as he ran from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in fear that he was a mouse.
Behind the scenes, the technical directors who ran the lights and music were CLCEC’s own, Cory Crow and Marty Miller. Itzi Rameriz and Jaden Self were the behind the stage assistant directors who helped with lines, costumes and anything else that was asked of them. Reese Overstreet with MCT was the Director of the production and Joshua Wood, also of MCT, assisted throughout the week.
The result of the work that CLCEC and MCT put into the creation of such an event right here in the Eads Community was clear on each of the children’s faces. Outside of the elementary spring and winter programs through the school most of these children had never had the opportunity to learn the skills that it takes to act, sing, dance, and preform not one but two shows in one night.
This was a special treat indeed for all that attended, and it leaves this reviewer with a message to the board of CLCEC and the children who stepped out of their comfort zones to perform, WE WANT MORE!