The Just So Stories, written in 1902, are Kipling's accounts of how various natural phenomena came about. Things like How the Leopard got his Spots, How the Rhinoceros got his Skin and How the Camel got his Hump. Anthony Drewe and George Stiles' musical version was written in 1984 and produced by Cameron Mackintosh at the Watermill Theatre; a cradle of musical theatre in Newbury.
Following the form of Kipling's writing, this musical is designed to appeal to the imagination of children, full of fantasy and exaggeration, much in the tradition of Peter Pan or Alice In Wonderland. Arts Educational have rightly chosen to present a stylised version, which works in the context of the fantasy. The characters come to life through the wardrobe of a child's room. It's beautifully done.
The musical numbers are infectious. There's No Harm In Asking, The Limpopo River, and If (based on the Kipling poem of the same name) stand out particularly as the sort of tunes you won't be able to get out of your head for a while. Indeed, I'm still whistling them on the Royal Mile. If you're looking for musical synonyms, then you'll recognise themes and styles from Once On This Island and The Lion King.
The cast deliver the songs confidently. Craig Fletcher as The Elephant's Child is a strong singer, and delivers a heart-warming performance that you can't help but fall in love with. Will Rogers, is devilishly camp as the Crocodile and Parsee and has a great sense of comic timing (he reminded me of Lumiere from Beauty and The Beast), but it is Dani de Waal that steals the show as the Kolokolo Bird. Granted, Dani gets the best lines (like Is there really time for a tap number, and Let's not exaggerate. I fell with style), but her delivery is impeccable and surely she is a name to look out for.
Take the whole family. You'll be glad you did.