Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Boston

Just So

Have you ever wondered how the elephant got its trunk? Or how about how the leopard got its spots? If so, head over to North Shore Music Theatre, where you'll find all the answers to these questions and more! If not, stay far, far away.

Barrett Foa as the Elephant's Child and Garrett Long as the Kolokolo Bird
The idea was a bad one to begin with: take a series of Rudyard Kipling tales and turn them into a full-length musical. Much like the work of Truman Capote, Kipling's writings are extremely delicate, well-crafted pieces. To shove songs into an already thin story line just does not work. This is what George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have done. Although Mr. Stiles is a talented songwriter, this show is not his venue. Mr. Stiles gives every character, minor or major, an epic song to sing. This apparently was done to stretch the length of the show, but puts too much focus on minor characters that we have no reason to care about. However, his melodies are extremely catchy and he has already shown real potential in last year's HONK!

If you were to write a musical based on these stories, you would be sure to have an abundance of one element: magic. Although this production alludes to the word "magic" often, it never achieves the true effects. The show constantly implies instead of showing us the magic found in Kipling's work.

From the drab opening number, I knew we were in for some kind of disaster. I often found myself confused and had trouble deciphering what many of the costumes were representing. Elephants are dressed in long trench coats and top hats while leopards and cheetahs find themselves dressed in '70s jump suits that make them look like jungle pimps. However, the other design work is rather good. Peter McKintosh (who also designed the costumes) is very imaginative with his sparse scenic design and Jeff Croiter gives very effective, warm lighting throughout.

It is unfortunate that the cast of this pointless show is mostly superb. Garrett Long is absolutely adorable as the Kolokolo Bird. Ms. Long exudes charm and sweetness while giving her bird a biting edge. Francis Jue is hysterical as the Parsee Man, who has a rather strange relationship with his stove. Mr. Jue provides the only fully entertaining moments in the show.

Despite all this, North Shore should be commended for bringing original American musicals to the stage in these full, lavish productions. This is something North Shore does continually and they certainly are pros at it. Now if only the material could get a bit better!

See the current theatre schedule for the Boston area.

-- Ryan DeFoe

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