Swing by the Columbia Theater for “The Jungle Book”


Kennith Woods

Akela and Shere Khan glare and snarl at each other during the preview night showing for the Columbia Theater’s “The Jungle Book.” Nov. 11, 2022.

On Thursday evening, a few Southeastern Honors students and members of Alpha Psi Omega gathered together for a preview of the Columbia Theatre’s next production, “The Jungle Book.” 

The production is a stage adaptation of the classic Disney film. A baby boy by the name of Mowgli is found alone in the jungle by a black panther named Bagheera, who suspects the rest of his family was murdered by the tiger Shere Khan. 

Bagheera brings the boy back to the wolf pack, led by Akela. Shere Khan, in his disdain for man, swears to destroy Mowgli. Knowing they can’t bring him back to the man village, Akela decides to raise the boy as one of her own. She is helped by Bagheera as well as Baloo, a brown bear who serves as Mowgli’s mentor. 

Director Jim Winter went into detail about the pre-planning for the show and how they ended up with the final iteration of the production. 

“Tommy Jamerson and I have dreamt of collaborating on a production of ‘The Jungle Book’ for years and our partnership at the Columbia finally made it happen. Early in 2022, we decided we were going to do the show. By the start of summer, we were holding workshops with actors and designers to help Tommy improve the script. It was also around this time that our design began their initial conceptual drawings,” Winter said. 

Winter also raved over the design’s team accomplishments, describing their work as a “feast for the senses.” 

“Ben Norman’s larger-than-life scenic design, Katy T. Baronich’s gorgeous lighting, Hayden Kimball’s powerful original score, Avery Brent and Jon Connor’s incredible puppets, Jade Antoinette’s breathtaking costumes and Jenny Roche’s vibrant makeup designs all work to immerse the audience into our jungle,” he said. 

The audience certainly was immersed throughout the night. Between the design team and the cast, the audience had no shortage of laughter and cheers for the production. 

Hunter Tatman, a sophomore integrative biology major and current treasurer of APO, pulled the strings in finalizing the details for the preview night for the Honors students. 

“I was in constant contact with one of the actors as well as with the director, Jim Winter,” Tatman said. 

Brennan Bankston, a student at St. Thomas Aquinas who played “The Jungle Leader,” the narrator for the show, talked about how he prepared for his role onstage.

“Honing my role, I’ve just been focusing on eagles because that’s what I based my character off of and I’ve been watching how they move,” Bankston said. 

The cast is pumped for the official opening night on Friday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Banskston described how ecstatic the cast is to present their work to the Hammond community.

“I’ve been bonding with my cast so much because everybody is great and amazing, I love everybody so much. It feels like a second family. I’m feeling pumped, I’m so proud of this cast and I’m really excited to do it in front of a full audience,” Bankston said. 

Winter shared similar sentiments on the excitement from the crew. 

“We are very excited about this show. We are all really swinging big with this show. I think we’ve all had to step out of our comfort zones a little bit. We’re in the thick of it now,” he said. 

Along with Nov. 11, “The Jungle Book” will also run on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

and Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices start at $35 for adults and $15 for students. For more information on the production, visit the Columbia Theatre’s website. You can also visit their Instagram or call the box office at 985-549-2787 Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.