Disney's The Jungle Book is an undoubted classic. With its endearing main character, Mowgli, his band of jungle buddies and an iconic songbook, it makes for a grand spectacle on stage. The Peoples Theatre, being seasoned children's theatre geniuses, only adds to the fun and fantasy of the production. Working in collaboration with Coenraad Rall (musical director), Sandy Dyer (musical staging) and Grant Knottenbelt (set and lighting design), the Peoples Theatre team presents the epitome of family-fun entertainment with The Jungle Book Kids! 

A Jungle Scene

It's quite a mean feat representing an entire jungle on a tiny stage, but The Peoples Theatre are no amateurs. Abundant plant life, a cascading waterfall and swinging vines set the scene for the opening number of The Jungle Book Kids. Using clever design and a few secret theatre tricks (I won't tell, I promise), they have crafted a visceral world on stage, which quickly draws children's attention.

Jungle Book kids

Impressive Acrobatics And A Laugh-A-Minute 

Mowgli (played by the charming Kwanda Mtombeni) and his panther pal Bagheera (played by Thokozani Jiyane) burst onto stage with vibrant energy. The trusting relationship between the child actor and the professional is evident throughout the production, aiding the emotive element of the story. I must also congratulate Jiyane on his nimble acrobatics as the panther. The kiddies were certainly delighted by his fancy footwork, as was I.

Mogwli's biggest ally, Baloo the Bear, is played by Luciano Zuppa. A seasoned musical theatre performer, he is never afraid of making a fool of himself, which pays off well as the children revel in his goofy portrayal of the much-beloved character. As in the Disney film, Baloo quickly becomes the comic hand, as he bumbles through the jungle living by his motto of simplicity and carefree apathy. But, of course, as young Mowgli claws his way into Baloo's heart, we see a softer, yet more worrisome side to him. The personification of the paradoxes of parenthood, Baloo easily endears himself to both the little ones and parents. A definite nod to Zuppa for his ability to play both the fool and the soft-hearted parental figure.

Quick Change Magicians

At this juncture, I must mention that the costumes for the production were masterfully done. Cries of "look how cute that baby elephant is", were resounding, as costumier Linda Wilson matched the enchantment and fun of the set with her detailed costumes. Props to the performers too, for managing numerous quick changes and the heat of full body suits under melting stage lights!

One such quick change artist was Clive Gilson, who took on the roles of Sheer Khan, Colonel Harti and King Louie. Gilson is a multi-talented performer, able to effortlessly slip between characters. Giving each their own personality, he masqueraded as the villain, the stern commanding elephant and the swanky king of the apes. Having seen him deliver a stunning performance in Janice Honeyman's 2019 pantomime, I expected nothing but excellence. However, Gilson managed to surprise with his versatility, earning him a horde of new fans, including myself.

A relative newcomer to the stage, actress Bethany-Joy Jiyane went toe-to-toe with Gilson. Also taking on three minor characters (Kaa the Snake, Winifred and King Louie's wife), she held her own well. Shining as the frumpy Winifred, she most certainly has a talent for evoking giggles from an audience.

Jungle book kids

A Final Word

The Peoples Theatre have once again successfully taken a Disney classic and made it relevant to a South African audience. While the story of The Jungle Book is universal enough, they add their own special flair to make it uniquely theirs. It is this brand of stage magic that I encourage you to invest in by taking your little ones to see The Jungle Book Kids before it closes on Sunday, 26 April 2020. It's a swinging good time!

For More Information

Click here for more information about The Jungle Books Kids.

You can also visit The Peoples Theatre's website for details on upcoming shows, kids club memberships and school tours.

Contact details: Corner Loveday and Hoofd Streets, Joburg Theatre Complex, Braamfontein, Johannesburg | (011) 403-1563 / 2340 | [email protected]

Little People, Lots Of Theatre 

The Peoples Theatre has been in operation for 30 years. Spearheaded by theatre and television veterans, Jill Girard and Keith Smith, this dedicated children's theatre house opened the doors for young people to experience the magic and wonder of live performance, regardless of their backgrounds. This year, The Peoples Theatre celebrates their 20th anniversary at Joburg Theatre. They are situated just above the main theatre complex, opposite the National School of the Arts. Driving past over weekends and during school holidays, you can often spot hordes of excited kiddies and eager parents waiting on the side street to step inside.

Peoples Theatre

A World Of Wonder

The Peoples Theatre interior is cosy and inviting, displaying all of the theatre's past productions on the walls. While the space may feel a little tight to grown-ups, it's the perfect size for little ones attending their first theatre show. Once you step inside the auditorium, an energy of anticipation fills the air. It's a marvel to watch first-time theatre goers wait patiently for the show to begin as they can hardly imagine what to expect. Then, once the curtain rises and their favourite characters from books, movies and television appear right before their eyes, the love for theatre is evidently sparked.

As a lifetime theatre fanatic, I distinctly remember my first outing to The Peoples Theatre to see The Jungle Book. Aged eight and on a school trip for the day, I happily sat right in the front row. With baited breath I waited, as smoke machines billowed out a thick, mysterious fog across the stage. At first a little terrifying, the scene quickly transformed into a joyous song and dance spectacle. Now, The Peoples Theatre yet again present Disney's The Jungle Book Kids, commemorating 20 years of hard work, dedication and tons of fun.

I sat down for a quick chat with the theatre's directors to find out what their 20th anniversary at the Joburg Theatre complex means to them:

How did your partnership with Joburg Theatre come about?

Janice Honeyman, who was the CEO at the Joburg Theatre at the time, asked Peoples Theatre to move our infrastructure to Joburg Theatre. This was in order to facilitate our production house specialising in shows designed for children and families from all sectors of the community. A big thank you has to go out to Bernard Jay for all the support he showed The Peoples Theatre over the years he was CEO after Janice. We now have the great pleasure of dealing with Xoliswa Nduneni Ngema, the new CEO of the Joburg Theatre, who allows The Peoples Theatre to continue developing the minds of future theatre goers.

What has been your key highlights at The Peoples Theatre over the last 20 years?

Every production has been special in its own right. Our greatest joy was obtaining the rights for Disney’s junior shows, which has helped many young actors and technicians start their careers in musical theatre at the Peoples Theatre.

Why do you believe that children's theatre is still relevant 20 years on?

Children's theatre stimulates and encourages a lifetime of theatre going. The themes and sentiments of our shows are as relevant today and have a lasting impact on children who see these productions. Studies show that, "Experiencing live theatre enables a child to achieve a deeper understanding, social tolerance and a greater ability to question," (Dr Natasha Kirkman).

How do you cater to audiences from preschool age to adulthood?

The content of the shows are appreciated on various levels, depending on the age of the child. A very young child is mesmerised by both the visual and auditory stimulation, whereas an older child and adults will respond to the dialogue, story line and morals drawn from each story, understanding conflict and resolve!

Why should parents bring their children to see your upcoming production of Disney's The Jungle Book Kids?

The Jungle Book is a hugely popular story which has endured for many generations. It's fun-filled with delicious humour, a beautiful set, with the most memorable music score. The hit song, Bare Necessities, is iconic.

How do you believe theatre can change or benefit the lives of young people who come from underprivileged backgrounds?

The Peoples Theatre has always welcomed all children, no matter how challenged they are financially, by offering reduced prices to schools. Theatre builds confidence, stimulates creativity and boosts children's academic performance. We believe that there are both social and academic benefits from taking school groups to live performances.

Finally, can you give us some insight into the amount of work it takes to put on four productions per year at the Peoples Theatre? 

Each production, including set, costumes, staging, direction and casting takes approximately 6 - 8 weeks to develop for live performance, depending on the complexity of the piece.

For More Information

Click here for more information about The Jungle Books Kids, which will be on at the Peoples Theatre from Sunday, 08 March 2020 – Sunday, 26 April 2020.

You can also visit their website for details on upcoming shows, kids club memberships and school tours.

Contact details: Corner Loveday and Hoofd Streets, Joburg Theatre Complex, Braamfontein, Johannesburg | (011) 403-1563 / 2340 | [email protected]

Bringing Little People To The Theatre 

The Peoples Theatre in Braamfontein has been bringing world-class children's theatre to the stage for over 20 years, spearheaded by theatre and television veterans, Keith Smith and Jill Girard. The Peoples Theatre produces four full productions each year, often bringing classic fairy-tales to life. While their theatre is geared for children aged 3 - 12, The Peoples Theatre also keeps parents and older siblings in mind. Providing a fantastic experience for young and old, this tiny theatre on a hill is vital to introducing children to the arts.

The Peoples Theatre works in close association with schools across Johannesburg. Nearly 80% of their audiences who come to see a show with their school would not have otherwise been exposed to theatre. Welcoming in children from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic experiences, the Peoples Theatre opens up a world of magic and wonder to all.

Family Time

Taking your child to the theatre for the first time can be an incredible bonding experience. Watching their face as the story unfolds just metres away is pure joy. Why not take some time during the upcoming autumn school holidays and treat the kids to a day out at the Peoples Theatre? From Sunday, 08 March 2020 to Sunday, 26 April 2020, the theatre presents Disney's The Jungle Book Kids! This fantastic musical adventure is based on the 1967 film and features all your most loved songs. Join in on The Bare Necessities, I Wanna Be Like You and many more. The Jungle Book Kids is the ultimate family-fun adventure. Book your tickets now to avoid missing out!

When Is It?

The show officially opens on Sunday, 08 March 2020 and runs until Sunday, 26 April 2020. 

Show times:

Monday - Friday at 09:00 and 11:00.

Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 and 14:30.

Where Is It?

The People's Theatre, Joburg Theatre Complex, 33 Loveday Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

How Much Is It?

Tickets cost R145 per person for the general public, or R100 per person for members of the Peoples Theatre Kids Club. Book your tickets by contacting 011 403 1563/2340 or via email at [email protected]

Click here for more information.

Coming Soon...

The Peoples Theatre recently announced their lineup for the rest of the 2020 season. You can expect big things as Peter Pan Junior and Disney's The Little Mermaid Junior take to the stage in June-July and November- December respectively. As always, the Peoples Theatre are sure to deliver their unique brand of fun for all ages, with sing-alongs, stunning sets and stellar casts. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on upcoming shows!

Become A Kids Club Member

Kids Club members receive a number of discounts on tickets, as well as special benefits. With over 3000 members, this kiddies theatre club is well worth signing up for. Here are some of the nifty benefits that come with being a member:

  • Receive a free ticket when making a booking for the production closest to your child's birthday.
  • Reduced rates - the ticket costs are: R100 for the member and R120 for family and friends who come along to see the show, as long as the member pays on collection of the tickets.
  • A regular newsletter updating you on upcoming productions, as well as other special offers.

The yearly membership fee is just R120. If you would like to become a member of the club, click here.

For More Information

Visit their website for more information. Or, you can follow them on social media:

Facebook - facebook.com/PeoplesTheatre

Twitter - twitter.com/peoples_theatre