Mama Mayhem

There’s the rumble in the jungle, and then there’s...

By Riverine Herald

THEY say never work with children or animals — one, because they never do as you ask, and two, because they never do as you ask.

So what does happens when you work with children pretending to be animals?

Well, I am just starting to figure that out.

As you all know, I have taken up the role of assistant director in Echuca-Moama Theatre Company’s junior production — The Jungle Book Kids.

And everything really got going last weekend when we had a full day of auditions.

Can you imagine cutting 35 mostly sweet and cute kids down to a cast of 25?

It’s brutal.

Children as young as eight who have plucked up enough courage to sing, dance and act their little hearts out in front of a panel of six judges, desperately hoping for a spot in one of their favourite musicals.

I mean, you want to say yes to all of them just for giving it a crack.

However, I had to drink a cup of cement and harden up because as we all know, rejection is part of life.

I must say though, saying no became slightly easier as the day went on; listening to Bare Necessities for the 46th time.

Each child not only had to sing the Disney tune but perform a choreographed dance to it, so you can imagine how we were all feeling by six o’clock that night. I was ready to shove Baloo and his Bare Necessities where the sun don’t shine.

The bright side of it though was watching some super talented kids do some killer auditions.

I’m nervous enough having to do them as an adult (okay, maybe more a big kid), so I felt for some of the little squirts who looked like a slight breeze would knock them over.

It all comes down to experience though. Put a child who has never auditioned before in front of a bunch of strangers and of course they’re going to be nervous. Unless you have one of those overly confident theatre nerds who crave the limelight.

We had a few of those. You know, those born for the stage. Complete with trained voices, exaggerated smiles and jazz hands.

And then there were the ones who had me in fits of laughter. Not that they were meaning to be funny.

One boy asked us ‘do you mind if I knock over anything?’ before he proceeded to leap and bound across the room and show us his super flexible high kicks.

Another boy took a huge breath and exclaimed ‘well, here goes nothing’ in preparation for his dance routine.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the super shy youngsters who were so nervous you could actually see the blood drain from their faces. My youngest included.

It was Maya’s first time auditioning so I was kind of expecting her to take one look at everyone and fall to pieces. Either that or run as fast as she could in the opposite direction.

Thankfully she pulled it together, despite looking as white as a ghost, managing to land a role in the ensemble.

For those of you wondering, there was no nepotism involved as I was not allowed to score her.

Instead I had to watch from the sidelines, resisting the urge to blurt out ‘eyes up’, ‘smile’ and ‘sing louder’.

I guess that will be my job for the next four months.