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Youth Theater Draws Crowd

By Lisa Wilbourne

Smiles and Frowns Playhouse held their opening-night performance of “The Jungle Book” at the 600-seat Doug Mitchell Memorial Theater in the Ayden Community Center for a nearly full house. Audience members were not deterred by the sudden downpour that flooded streets and sidewalks before the show. The 25th Anniversary of Smiles and Frowns Playhouse was acknowledged before tonight’s show with a letter from Governor Bev Perdue congratulating the playhouse for representing “a wide variety of cultural experiences available in North Carolina.” Aspiring film studies major Destiny Britner screened a short documentary on the playhouse’s 25 years.

Under the direction of Andrea Croskery, the all-youth cast displayed weeks of hard work to an eager audience in this play by Joseph Robinette, based on Rudyard Kipling’s “All the Mowgli Stories.” The familiar stories of Mowgli are framed inside Kipling’s prep school days in England, with the young Rudyard (Jayden Maciaszek) working on completing a story for a competition to become a literary editor of the school’s publication. Young Rudyard’s tale of Mowgli in the Indian jungle creates a parallel with his own life in England. Both Rudyard and Mowgli are faced with predators – a couple of bullying schoolboys (Burton Gillette and Blake Stuart) threaten Rudyard while the tiger Shere Khan (Andrew Guillemette) and his comic sidekick, the jackal Tabaqui (Maxine Ford) threaten Mowgli. Both boys also have guides to help them through – Master Willies (Chris Wiseman) and Master Crofts (Matthias Everhart) nurture the young writer’s talent and look out for his well-being while the same characters play the jungle-counterparts Baloo the bear and Bagheera the black leopard.

The entire cast exhibits their excitement and energy in their roles, from the little screeching, acrobatic monkeys and the young Mowgli (Maisy Woodmansee), to the wolves who grow up with Mowgli as a brother only to become revolutionaries supporting the ousting of the man-child with the villainous tiger Shere Khan, to the more seasoned actors  playing the key roles.

You can see the show Saturday, March 31 at 2pm at the Doug Mitchell Memorial Theater in the Ayden Community Center. Tickets are $5 at the door and concessions are available during intermission. 

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