Berzerk present The Jungle BookBy Phil Creighton
December 08, 2011
A bunch of jungle VIPs are reaching the top – but what's bothering them is not that they have to stop but that you'll be missing out on a festive treat.
Next week, more than 40 talented youngsters will be showing you that they've got the bear necessities and encouraging you to forget about your worries and your strife as they put on a brand-new version of the ever-popular musical The Jungle Book.
Based on the Disney film, which first hit the silver screen in 1967, this all-new show aims to bring the jungle to life in an all-singing, all-dancing Christmas show from Berzerk Productions.
The group, led by Matt Whitlock, aims at giving children the opportunity to reach their potential and improve their drama skills to boot. And he's delighted with the way preparations are going for the group as they prepare for curtain up next week.
"They've really pulled out all the stops," he says, of the cast a day after a dress rehearsal. "They were getting really, really excited. It was a great run through."
The show, which will be performed at Leighton Park School in Shinfield, sees Mowgli, Baloo, King Louie and the gang as they swing their way through madcap adventures and thwart the ferocious tiger, Shere Khan.
All the elements that made Disney's film will be recreated, including much-loved songs such as The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You.
Although the show can't possibly be the animated film that every one knows and loves, Matt's delighted with the way that the set manages to help tell the musical, which is ultimately based on Rudyard Kipling's children's stories.
"We've created a backdrop that features animation," he promises. "A local artist has created the set and the jungle is there the whole time.
"The children come out from the jungle as and when needed."
And, alongside the famous songs and the brilliantly talented youngsters making up the cast, there will be some great surprises as they bring the story to life.
"There will be an amazing puppet sequence," he promises, adding that the children have helped create everything from scratch.
"This show is a one-off and you'll never see it anywhere else," he enthuses.
Matt is conscious that this well-loved tale will be some young children's first experience of live theatre and Berzerk are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the play is a Christmas cracker.
"It's one of those classic tales," he says. "It's great for the kids. It's very much a hands-on show and it's around the hour mark – some young children have to leave pantomimes as they're too long. This should be just right."
Matt also feels there's little chance of anyone feeling shortchanged with the switch from animation to live action.
He explains: "We've tried to keep it as cartoony as possible. We can't copy the film exactly but we've tried to ensure that it's got that Disney feel."
Berzerk has been helping youngsters get a taste for acting sine 1994 and the group has received a Pride of Reading award in the past. Matt's really proud of his young actors – aged eight to 19 – who have gone on to become professionals.
He says: "We've seen quite a few students move on to greater things including professional film and TV commercial work – that's fantastic.
"Others have taken part in Has Reading Got Talent? and auditioned for Britain's Got Talent. It's quite inspiring to see them [do well]."
Trust in me, just in me… with Matt excited about his young cast putting, it sounds like it's going to be a brilliant pre-Christmas show.
There are three performances of The Jungle Book. The first is at 7.30pm on Friday, December 16. There are two more performances – at 2pm and 5pm – on Saturday, December 17.
For tickets call 0118 3240800 or log on to www.readinginfo.co.uk