The Jungal Book

Front row from left, (Hathi) Katelyn Hagenow, (Baloo) Austin Bailey, (Grey) Alex Bohls, (Perchy) Ellie Scholl, Back row from left, (Bagheera) Nathan Palmer, (Windbag) Hannah Hitchcock, (Kaa) Emily Ogaard, (Chill) Evelyn Hickman, (Grab) Grant Bohls, (Mowgli) Youssef Raji, (Chuckles) Avery Heinzerling, (Akela) Angela Schutt.

MASON CITY | The humans are almost robotic in the version of the Rudyard Kipling classic which opens tonight at Stebens Children’s Theatre.

“They’re rendered as strange, robotic,” said Tom Ballmer, executive director of the theater.

The jungle animals, on the other hand, “are wild and free.”

In the story, Mowgli, the man-cub, was abandoned as a baby and raised by wolves. The jungle is his playground.

Baloo, the bear, and Bagheera, the panther, are his mentors. And he must avoid Sherakhan, the tiger.

“This script is first rate,” Ballmer said. “It’s a great script for young people to do.”

And this cast is very young, according to Ballmer.

Youssef Raji plays the man-cub Mowgli.

“Our Mowgli, not only does he look the part, but he’s doing really good, handling it really well,” Ballmer said. “It’s hard to step into the lead role as a 10-year-old.”

“That’s the cool thing about summer shows — it gives the younger kinds the chance to step up,” said Lydia Ouverson, who plays Sherakhan.

Ouverson, a recent graduate, said this is her “last hurrah” and her first time playing a villain.

Austin Bailey, who plays Baloo, said 10 Stebens students graduated this year.

“It’s really been fun to watch these two actors lead the way,” Ballmer said of Ouverson and Bailey. “The leadership these two have brought to the stage is crucial.”

As a drama, “Jungalbook” offered special challenges to the cast.

“I think it required more on the actors’ part to find ways to make this funny,” Ouverson said.

“There’s not a lot in the dialog, so we have to make things physical,” added Bailey.

Another challenge is finding the balance between being animal and human, Ouverson said.

“We are part animal,” Bailey said, but “more human than in the Disney version.”

Facts: Performances are 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, June 14-17, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 18. It is sponsored by Children's Dental Care, and Todd and Renee Hoeppner.

Tickets are $11 for adults & $8 for youth 18 and under, available at the box office, 1-5 p.m. weekdays, 641-424-9802, 616 N. Delaware Ave.

Cast: Akela, Angela Schutt; Grab, Grant Bohls; Grey, Alex Bohls; Bagheera, Nathan Palmer; Sherakhan, Lydia Ouverson; Mowgli, Youssef Raji; Perchy, Ellie Scholl; Chill, Evelyn Hickman; Chuckles, Avery Heinzerling; Kaa, Emily Ogaard; Windbag, Hannah Hitchcock; Hathi, Katelyn Hagenow; Baloo, Austin Bailey; Humans: Brooke Bleile, Delia Fick, Avah Hanig, Abby Hartkopp, Janae Hansen, Madison May, Grayson Ogaard, Grace Perkinson.

Crew: Assistant Stage Manager, Abby Hartkopp; Lights Operator, Isaiah Bahls; Makeup, Evelyn Hickman; Props, Ellie Scholl; Sound Operator, Keegan Freeman; Stage Manager, Amelia Mirowski 

2017-18 season: “The Andrews Sisters,” Sept. 9-10; “Cinderella,” Oct. 11-22; “Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” Dec. 1-10; “Rumpelstiltskin,” Feb. 21-25; “Androcles and the Lion,” March 2-3; Broadway Musical “Peter and the Starcatcher,” April 13-22; “Stepping Out at Stebens 2018,” May 9-12; “Kids Working,” June 13-17

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