Jungle comes to the city
Luc Roderique as Shere Khan and Camille Legg as Mowgli in Carousel Theatre for Young People’s The Jungle Book. (photo by Tim Matheson)
This month, Carousel Theatre for Young People presents The Jungle Book, the musical adaptation of the classic story by Rudyard Kipling. For the production at Waterfront Theatre, which opens April 17, local Jewish community member Anton Lipovetsky takes on the role of sound designer and additional music.
The Studio 58 alumnus is no stranger to the Vancouver performing arts scene. Lipovetsky has worked as an actor for many local companies since graduating from the Studio 58 acting training program in 2011. “Now I spend about half my year working as an actor,” he said, noting that he’ll be joining the cast of Bard on the Beach again this summer, “and, roughly, the other half creating music and musical directing for local theatrical productions.”
He approaches each project in a different way.
“I try to be as prepared as possible for theatre gigs, but, especially if I’m in a designing role or leadership role like musical director, I have to make more decisions, and make them earlier, and those decisions will affect more people. I suppose there’s more pressure at the beginning. But then, unlike performing, as rehearsals get underway, I’ll become more and more hands-off, showing trust to the performers, creative team and crew,” he said.
Lipovetsky does not remember one exact moment when he realized he possessed a talent for composing and sound design. Rather, he noted that he has been playing the guitar and writing music his entire life, and music naturally worked its way into his career.
“I’ve been singing and writing songs for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I fell in love with theatre in high school (I had great teachers). Then, through my training at Studio 58, I learned how multi-disciplined a theatre artist can be. I’m always looking for new ways to challenge myself as a creator.”
Regarding his latest endeavor, The Jungle Book, Lipovetsky said there are inherent nuances when working on an adaptation, but there is always room for further expression.
“There’s always a degree of pressure when dealing with any story as beloved as The Jungle Book, but I think [director] Kayla Dunbar’s innovative concept will allow audiences to approach the show from a new angle.… The adaptation, written by Tracey Power, comes with some great tunes by Tracey and her collaborator Steve Charles, and encouragement to create jungle soundscapes and rhythms. I will be working with the fabulous percussionist Todd Biffard to devise a score played through traditional Indian instruments, like the tabla and dhol.”
Given that Carousel Theatre is geared towards youth – on, behind and in front of the stage – it is expected that much of the audience will be made up of children. Parents should note, however, that the theatre company recommends that viewers be 6 years old at least, as “[t]here are some intense moments and strong themes, with characters in the play dealing with topics that include hatred, prejudice, killing and death.”
Aware of who the audience will be, Lipovetsky said, “The most important value for me in this process is making sure the sound/music is clear for the youth and economical (not too long!). I do think the sound/music is going to elicit a big range of emotions from the youth … we will definitely mine the comedy, but we’ll search for dramatic depth, as well. Keeping the stakes high is important to a discerning young audience.”
The Jungle Book is, above all, a story of finding empathy and acceptance in the face of prejudice and intolerance.
“I think everybody feels like an outsider at some point in their childhood,” said Lipovetsky. “Jewish children may feel that especially because of how small the Jewish population is; they may feel underrepresented. Mowgli is treated like family by Baloo and the wolves, even though he is so different from them. Because of this kindness, Mowgli learns integrity, ultimately connecting with his roots and becoming a hero. I hope children root for him! And I also hope they want to be like Baloo in their own lives … compassionate and helpful to others.”
Lipovetsky believes that the story of The Jungle Book serves to emphasize that it is often through unlikely connections with those who may be different to us that we are able to become better ourselves.
With respect to how theatre can transmit values and offer guidance for how to approach life, Lipovetsky said, “What I have found is that art helps me to better understand others and better understand myself. I think understanding is more powerful than tolerance.”
The Carousel Theatre for Young People production opens April 17, just two days after Disney’s The Jungle Book remake hits movie theatres. Lipovetsky called it “the spring of The Jungle Book” and believes the movie will help the play’s success.
For tickets to The Jungle Book, which runs Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m., until May 1, visit carouseltheatre.ca.
Brittni Jacobson is a freelance writer living in Toronto.