At the Helm: Bravely entering the ‘Jungle Book’

By Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer April 09, 2011 05:00 am

Of all the play productions that my 8-year-old daughter Alia could have pick for her acting debut, Disney’s “Jungle Book Kids” makes perfect sense: It’s all about singing and dancing animals.

My daughter, not willing to settle for just one part, will be portraying a wolf and a monkey, the latter of which has several lines. Her mother and I couldn’t be prouder.

Auditions for “Jungle Book” were last month and rehearsals are under way. Performance dates are the last three weekends in May, and the cast will be featured in their “Jungle Book” characters on a float in the Azalea Festival parade.

Alia first expressed an interest in the performing arts a year or so ago after watching a version of Peter Pan, staged by Dori Blodgett’s Brookings-Harbor Community Theater.

She wanted to be in one of Dori’s plays, but with one caveat: only if she could play the part of a dog.

Those who know Alia know that she has been play-acting like a dog ever since she first watched Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.” In fact, our small movie collection at home boasts more films based on dogs than I want to admit. We have two real dogs of our own – Cosmo and Blackjack, and Alia is already saving for a third dog – a husky – that she intends to buy on reaching her 12th birthday.

But, you say, there are no dogs in “Jungle Book.” True, but there are wolves, and that’s close enough for Alia. She also liked the idea of being a monkey (no surprise there.)

For the record, Dori, who always goes out of her way to accommodate the children, checked into obtaining the rights to produce “101 Dalmatians,” but found it was too cost prohibitive.

So “Jungle Book” it is!

Alia will join more than 12 young actors as Mowgli and Baloo trek through the deep, dark forests of India, encountering the likes of King Louie, Kah the snake and  the devious tiger Shere Khan. The forest will ring with the rhythm-heavy songs  “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.”

Alia’s previous public performing experience consists of gymnastics competitions and several class singing events. So it has been interesting to watch her venture into unchartered territory, as one of the youngest actors in the production. Again, as a father of an adventurous but somewhat shy child, I have to keep my eyes open and my mouth shut.

You see, Alia is OK with trying new things, as long as her parents don’t make a big deal about it. However, I forgot about that when, after a recent rehearsal, I told her how great she was doing on stage.

She put a finger to her mouth and said, “Shssh, I don’t want to talk about it.”

OK, I thought. I’ll just write about it in my column.

As many parents know, it’s fun to watch one’s children take on new challenges, build their confidence and have fun. I’m greatful to Dori for selecting Alia for the play (the audition was advertised as being for children ages 10 through 15).

Standing on stage with children up to seven years older than her, Alia holds her own. She follows the other actors’ lines in preparation for saying hers. She seems to be a natural. She rarely misses a cue and is learning how to speak clearly and loudly. She’s dancing and singing.  It’s a wonderful experience.

When the final curtain falls on this production of the “Jungle Book” I know I will have to fight the urge to tell Alia how great she was, but nothing is going to stop her mother and I from standing up from their seats and clapping and cheering the loudest.