GREENFIELD — The animals – monkeys chittering, vultures with black feathered wings, swaying snakes — took their places.
The set: a mishmash of multi-level platforms wrapped in newsprint and masking tape that would soon become an Asian jungle.
Rehearsal for “The Jungle Book” was underway.
The Greenfield-Central drama department opens up a five-production season with “The Jungle Book,” a play based on the stories of Rudyard Kipling, this weekend with 7 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday in the auditorium at the high school, 810 N. Broadway St.
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The play, directed by seniors Emily Spurling and Peyton Bousman, under the guidance of Greenfield-Central High School drama director Ted Jacobs, tells the story of Mowgli (played by Dominic Lanham), an Indian boy lost in the jungle as an infant and raised by wolves.
When Mowgli leaves to rejoin his own kind, he travels to the village with mentors and friends Baloo the Bear (Jules McGuire) and Bahgeera the Panther (Jackson Smith). Along with the talking animal familiar to fans of the story, contemporary elements such as trip to Starbuck’s and characters with cellphones give this adaptation a modern twist.
As Kaa the snake, Stella Wood makes her way across stage in a shimmery sheath that is sometimes gold and sometimes green. Wood watched the live-action version of The Jungle Book and enjoyed how Scarlett Johannson played Kaa, a style she’s worked to imitate for the Greenfield-Central stage.
“I feel like I have a similar acting style to her,” Wood said. “She’s hypnotizing, and I feel like I can do that.”
Portraying Kaa is a head-to-toe endeavor that requires deliberate movements, she added.
“You have to lead with your head — and lots of S,” she said, demonstrating the accompanying hiss.
Senior Tanner Hord plays Shere Khan the Tiger, enemy of man. For Hord, the role marks a change of pace.
“It’s great to be a bad guy for once,” he said. “I’m usually an old man or the romantic lead.”
That’s not to say the part isn’t without challenges of its own. Maintaining the low grumbling voice he uses to portray the tiger isn’t easy.
“I drink a lot of water because the voice part is very demanding,” he said.
Any time a cast of characters includes animals, costumers and makeup artists have their work cut out for them.
Helping audiences suspend disbelief is junior Ivy Rowe, who works behind the scenes to make the characters come alive with makeup.
The more than 25 cast members are divided among the six members of the makeup crew; Ivy’s responsibilities include Shere Khan and the wolves. The wolves are the most difficult, she admits. Each one needs to be different, and there are so many different grays and browns to blend to make their faces.
Freshman Dominic Lanham was surprised and thrilled to be cast as the lead in his first high school play.
He was hoping for a main character when he auditioned, but landing the role of Mowgli was a pleasant surprise.
After weeks of rehearsal, he looks forward to performing for an audience.
“It’s a great play for children to come and see,” he said. “I think it will be funny, and I think the parents will like it, too.”
Greenfield-Central High School thespian troupe 2691 presents “The Jungle Book” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the auditorium at Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway. “The Jungle Book,” based on the classic novel by Rudyard Kipling, tells the story of Mowgli’s adventures in the Indian jungle, as he grows up raised by wolves and communicating with all the jungle animals. Tickets are available at gcscdrama.weebly.com.