Review: “Just So”


Credit: Elena Erdekian

Above is senior Sophia Calder performing as the Kolokolo Bird in last year’s musical, “Just So”. WHSTE is holding auditions for this year’s play starting March 2.

Meg Trogolo

“Just So,” the WHS Theater Ensemble’s first fall musical since 2009, lived up to high expectations Friday night with creative costumes, excellent acting and music that bounced effortlessly between genres.

“Just So” is based on the book “Just So Stories,” written by Rudyard Kipling and published in 1902. In the musical, first performed in 1984, an Elephant’s Child (senior Jackson DiIanni) sets out on a journey to persuade a giant crab to stop controlling the ocean’s tides. He is joined by the flamboyant Kolokolo Bird (junior Sophia Calder). Along the way, the two encounter a baker (senior Sten Shearer) on an otherwise deserted island, run from predatory cats (junior Tyler Johnsen and senior Thomas Leacu) in the African desert and meet a kangaroo (junior Liam McNeish) and a dingo dog (junior Anna Marobella), among other adventures. The story is narrated by the Eldest Magician (senior Tim Spinale).

The acting was very well done, but a few performances in particular stood out. Senior Jackson DiIanni was excellent as the curious, innocent, and often naively frustrated Elephant’s Child. Junior Sophia Calder, playing the Kolokolo Bird, sang a very emotional solo in “Wait A Bit,” doing a great job showing her character’s insecurity about being unable to fly. The most memorable supporting performance was senior Sten Shearer as the Parsee Man, who added a lot of humor to the show. Junior Liam McNeish did a very good Australian accent as the kangaroo as well.

One interesting aspect of the acting was how cast members came up with backstage characters as well. These characters were members of the Kipling Company, a fictional English theater company named for the story’s original author. At the very beginning of the musical, the curtains opened briefly to show actors in character as the theater company, scrambling around and moving boxes and urgently gesturing for the curtain to close. Throughout the show, they used boxes and trunks marked with the company’s name as parts of the set.

The set itself was minimalistic, consisting mainly of these trunks, a staircase and various props held by actors. The floor of the stage, however, was painted with swirls in the shape of a river. Many of the lighting effects also helped to create settings, such as the jungle and the Parsee Man’s island.

The costumes, designed by junior Clare Lippincott, were also very creative. Although Lippincott was faced with a challenge in that most of the show’s characters are animals, she met it well. Costume changes were also a part of the plot, as over the course of the show, many of the animal characters gain unique patterns in their fur.

The show’s music was also memorable, and spanned a wide variety of genres, from jazz to rock to reggae, and the actors and pit band made it work very well. Whether the actors were singing a swing number or a tearful ballad, they found the right tone for the style of music they were performing.

However, there were some issues. The pit band drowned out the actors at times, and there were a few points at which the actors’ microphones cut out. Also, setting the scene at the beginning of the story took a long time and got the show off to a slow start.

Overall, the acting in “Just So” amazed me and the music was a lot of fun. I’d give this show a 4.5 out of 5.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.