Audience members for Cortez Middle School’s spring play “The Jungle Book” this weekend will be treated to a show that emphasizes the importance of loyalty and relationships.
After nine weeks of rehearsals, the cast and crew will stage three performances of the show: Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $8. Tickets are $5 for children ages 2 to 12, M-CHS students and seniors. Tickets are free for Cortez Middle School students, M-CHS staff and kids under age 2.
The show features a large ensemble cast with lots of lead roles, director Angela Gabardi said. The outgoing eighth-grade class has lots of talented members, so Gabardi said she wanted to choose a show that would give those students a chance to shine in their final middle school production.
“We have a lot of friends in the cast,” she said.
The play doesn’t feature music, but it draws from both the classic Disney movie and Rudyard Kipling’s legendary collection of jungle tales. A boy raised by wolves named Mowgli grows up in the jungle and struggles with the return of the treacherous tiger Shere Khan, said eighth-grader Rachael Burson, the show’s stage manager.
Eighth-grader Makee Neves, who plays Mowgli, said he enjoyed learning about both versions of “The Jungle Book.” “It’s fun to draw from both the book and the movie,” he said.
Neves said his character is more interesting and complicated than Disney’s version of Mowgli. The director challenged him to become his character, and then find a new way to portray that character, he said. But that’s part of being an actor, he added.
“Mowgli struggles with not being fully accepted, but he still has to find himself,” Neves said.
The show features lots of comedic moments, but some poignant scenes, too, cast members said.
“There’s lots of laughing, but also some sweet and sad moments,” said sixth-grader Sariah Robinson, who plays Mor the Peacock in the show.
Up until the final week of rehearsals, the cast and crew practice in the drama room at the middle school. For dress rehearsals, the crew moves the entire set to the gym, where the performances will be held.
Burson said the transition to a larger space will be a challenge, but it will be interesting to see how the production grows in the gym.
Gabardi said one reason she chose the show was because she thought it would be fun to transform the gym into a jungle.
Burson said it was tough to teach the cast of humans to act like animals. But she said the director cast the group well. It’s a good show for the whole family, Burson said.
“It’s comedic, but still serious at times and it has an important story,” she said.
The show features a good mix of boys and fits into the school’s theme of “Adventure is Out There” for this drama season, Gabardi said.
“Expect laughter and excitement,” she said. “The kids can really pull off this show.”