by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
SOAR Academy’s debut production, “Jungle Book Kids,” with a cast of 74 grade-school and kindergarten performers, played for five sellout audiences Feb. 28 through May 3, at St. Michael Catholic School’s basement stage.
To say it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys would be pretty accurate since there were a dozen monkeys, along with many other cleverly-costumed jungle characters, in this lively, colorful, energetic tapestry.
This is a branch of SOAR Regional Arts, which was formed last year as a theatre opportunity for older kids, debuting with “Willie Wonka” last summer. The cast members are from St. Michael, Rogers, Otsego, Albertville and Elk River.
Ben Ratkowski, a veteran of 12 years with Prairie Fire children’s productions, was enlisted as director. He noted that main character Mowgli’s journey is much like that of the young actors.
“Mowgli makes new friends, expands the bounds of his imagination, learns cognitively and physically from the characters surrounding him, engages in teamwork, develops problem-solving skills, and builds self-confidence.”
Said producer Jamie Cassidy about the SOAR organization: “Our goal is a big summer production for everybody each year, and at least one youth production like this.”