Just So (musical)
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1998 Goodspeed Opera House
2000 North Shore Music Theatre
2003 Rock Valley College Starlight Theatre
2005 Chichester Theatre Festival
2006 Globe Theatre
2008 Kanata Theatre (Ron Maslin Play House)
2010 Birmingham Repertory Theatre (at the Old REP)
Just So is a musical by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles written in 1984 based on the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Just So was produced by Cameron Mackintosh at the Watermill Theatre and Tricycle Theatre in England, as well as at the Goodspeed Opera House and North Shore Music Theatre in the USA. It was subsequently produced at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2004 and for the Tabard Theatre in 2010.
The Eldest Magician begins by reading a story “before the High and Far-Off Times” to the Best Beloved. As he does so, various indistinguishable animals appear on stage. The Eldest Magician, who created them, was very pleased...until he realized that they all looked the same. He bid the animals to go forth and find out what they were. (Just So)
All the animals did as the Eldest Magician asked except for Pau Amma the Crab, who vowed to be disobedient and play alone in the waters. He grew and grew and grew, and would go out looking for food twice a day, causing large areas of the land to flood, and so disrupting many of the other animals. (Another Tempest)
One day when the elephants have gathered round the watering hole, they discuss the tyranny of the Crab. Bursting into the middle of the circle, the Elephant’s Child decides (There's No Harm In Asking), and so to the elephants' annoyance he asks a continuous series of questions, all of which they dismiss as “silly” (Silly Questions). They are interrupted however by the Crab’s feed and are forced to move to higher ground.
The Elephant’s Child decides to find Pau Amma and make him stop. He finds the Eldest Magician who encourages the flightless Kolokolo Bird to join the Elephant’s Child on a journey to the Limpopo River in search of the Crab. (Limpopo River)
Travelling in a small raft, the two travellers are thrown off course by a storm created by the Crab and are washed up on an uninhabited island where the Parsee Man and his beloved Cooking Stove can no longer cook after the Crab constantly floods the crops they grow (Living On This Island).
The Elephant’s Child and the Kolokolo Bird ask the Parsee Man if they may stay and try one of his cakes.. As they chat, Rhinoceros bursts on stage complaining about his thick skin which appears painfully tight (Thick Skin). He then continues on his way.
Parsee Man and the cooking stove agree to cook a special cookie made out of the emergency rations as a gift. Along with the various Cake Ingredients (Butter, Sugar and Flour) Parsee Man shows the Elephant’s Child and the Kolokolo Bird how to limber up (The Parsee Cake Walk).
Rhino, who smells cake, comes back and tries to blend in amongst the dancing ingredients. Once the cake is completed he leaps forward and greedily rushes off with it, leaving the Parsee Man and the cooking stove vowing to get revenge (The Crime). The Elephant’s Child and the Kolokolo Bird set sail once again.
The raft finally reaches the coast of Africa where they meet the animals on the High Veldt. Giraffe and Zebra lounge around chatting, whilst Leopard and Jaguar are slowly moving in, hungry for a catch (The Chase). The Jaguar and the Leopard realise that the Elephant’s child and the Kolokolo Bird are around and go about surprising them in hope that they will make a good meal. When the Elephant’s Child asks for help in finding the Crab, they offer a deal: they will help find the Limpopo River in exchange for help finding Giraffe and Zebra. When the Elephant’s Child asks why, Jaguar and Leopard cheerfully explain (We Want To Take The Ladies Out). The idea of the cats eating the innocent creatures troubles both of the travelers, who feel they should warn the other animals. He therefore convinces Giraffe and Zebra to join him and the Kolokolo Bird (Pick Up Your Hooves and Trot). The group comes across a jungle where they eventually decide to rest until tomorrow. But the Giraffe and the Zebra stick out, causing concern that the cats may still find them.
The Elephant’s Child discovers the Jungle light, and prays to the Eldest Magician to help use it to camouflage them. The Eldest Magician molds and shapes the light beam to fall on the animals in such a way as to hide the giraffe and zebra. The two are transformed into their permanently patchy and stripey patterns.(Jungle Light)
But their celebration is interrupted by the sound of crashing waves. The baobab tree collapses allowing allowing sunlight into the clearing and causing chaos. It turns out the Crab rose out of the water, blotting out the sun.
The Crab asks who dares challenge him. The Elephant’s Child speaks up and politely asks the Crab to stop playing with the sea as it causes great havoc for the other animals. Pau Amma laughs and vows to go out and hunt for food seven times a day now so that the waters will never be still.
The Elephant’s Child is now scared and doesn’t know what to do at all. The Kolokolo Bird steps forward and convinces him that they must continue their way to the Limpopo River and promises they will think of something to stop the Crab. (Limpopo River (Reprise))
The Eldest Magician is interrupted by the arrival of the Elephant’s Child and the Kolokolo Bird having an argument (The Argument). It appears that they are lost and the two continue to blame each other until the Elephant’s Child runs off, having called the Kolokolo Bird a freak for being scared of flying.
The Elephant’s Child immediately accuses the Eldest Magician of being at fault. The Eldest Magician counsels him that the very thing he is looking for might be right under his nose.
The Eldest Magician introduces The Elephant’s Child to the Kangaroo, who sings about how normal his legs used to be (Aboriginally I). He wanted, however, to be more powerful and so the Eldest Magician recruited the Dingo Dog to chase him, building up the muscles in the Kangaroo’s legs (Leaps and Bounds). As he ran he began to hop, and as his legs got larger he hopped so much that he could run no more.
As Kangaroo exits he warns the Elephant’s Child, “Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you get what you deserve.” The now sheepish Elephant’s Child goes off in search of the Kolokolo Bird.
Back in the jungle, the Kolokolo Bird sits wondering why she always makes herself wait (Wait A Bit). However, the two cats appear and tie her up, just as the Elephant’s Child bursts through to rescue her. The Jaguar offers to let the bird go in exchange for the whereabouts of the Zebra and the Giraffe.
Giraffe and Zebra taunt and tease them. The cats can only hear and smell their prey, since Giraffe and Zebra are perfectly camouflaged by their new skins. The Elephant’s Child offers to show the Leopard and the Jaguar how they can change their skins too in exchange for his and the Kolokolo Bird’s freedom. The cats agree, and use smoke (Just So (Reprise)) to acquire new unique and camouflaged hides of their own.
The Elephant’s Child is searching for a now hidden Kolokolo Bird in order to apologize (Does The Moment Ever Come). The Parsee Man and the Cooking Stove enter in a boat made from an upturned Crab shell with the Rhino swimming close behind.
An already frustrated Elephant’s Child tells the group to stop acting like children and make friends. The Rhino blames the Parsee Man for ruining his skin, as he filled it with crumbs whilst the Rhino was swimming. He prepares to charge at the Parsee Man's Cooking Stove, but the Parsee Man begs the Rhino (Please Don't Touch My Stove). Rhino, Parsee Man, and the Cooking Stove all agree to be friends.
The Elephant’s Child sees water in the distance and exclaims they must be at the Limpopo River. But the head of a Crocodile invites him to come over, offering to give the Elephant’s Child directions if he will give him a meal (Little One Come Hither).
When the Elephant’s Child gets closer the Crocodile grabs him and tries to eat him. The Kolokolo Bird appears on a branch and, though scared, flies/falls to the ground to save the Elephant’s Child. Eventually the Elephant’s Child pulls free and the Crocodile slinks back into the water. The Elephant’s Child is embarrassed to see that his nose has been pulled into a trunk. The Kolokolo Bird encourages him to look on the bright side of having such a long nose and the Elephant’s Child apologizes for being so rude.
The Elephant’s Child suddenly notices the abandoned Crab shell. When the Kolokolo Bird mentions it is an old Crab shell that has been shed, the Elephant’s Child realizes how they can defeat the Crab.
The Eldest Magician appears and narrates while the Elephant’s Child and the Kolokolo Bird put their plan into action (If).
The Elephant’s Child finds Pau Amma and challenges him. As the Crab emerges from the water the Elephant’s Child signals to the Eldest Magician, who casts a spell on the Crab which makes him finally shrink. When the Eldest Magician asks the other animals what to do with the Crab, the Elephant’s Child prompts him to let the Crab go to play in the sea, where he can no longer harm anyone.
All of the animals and the Eldest Magician celebrate their victories and their uniqueness with a grand finale. (Just So (Reprise, Limpopo River (Reprise)
- Just So
- Another Tempest
- There's No Harm In Asking
- Silly Questions
- The Limpopo River
- Living On This Island
- Thick Skin
- The Parsee Cake-Walk
- The Chase
- We Want To Take The Ladies Out
- Pick Up Your Hooves
- Jungle Light/Just So (reprise)
- Act One Finale/ The Limpopo River (reprise)
- The Argument
- Wait A Bit
- Aboriginally I
- Leaps and Bounds
- Does The Moment Ever Come?
- Please Don't Touch My Stove
- Little One Come Hither
- Just So/The Limpopo River (reprise)
The 2005 production of the show was recorded with the Chichester Festival Theatre cast (including Julie Atherton, and Richard Dempsey) and also featuring John Barrowman as the Eldest Magician, and Anthony Drewe as the cooking stove. However, it does not include all the numbers, particularly "Aboriginally I".
- Elephant's Child: a generally kind-hearted, curious elephant who can often be a little reckless.
- Kolokolo Bird: Elephant's Child's reluctant and cynical guide; a bird that is too afraid to fly.
- Eldest Magician: Both a character and the Narrator, the Eldest Magician tells the story to the audience and interacts with the characters on their journeys, acting as a God-like figure.
Secondary Characters (In Order of Appearance):
- Elephants:Are not at all curious, and shun the Elephant's d for asking such 'silly questions'
- King Elephant: The king of the herd
- Queen Elephant: The queen of the herd
- Parsee Man: An Indian man who is a French chef and lives on an island with only a cooking stove for company.
- Cooking Stove: The Parsee Man's most beloved possession.
- Rhino: A lazy, messy, creature with tight skin
- Ingredients: The Parsee Man's ingredients, very fun characters
- Giraffe: Zebra's friend, more open minded than Zebra
- Zebra: A diva, Giraffe's best friend
- Wildebeests: Rather uninteresting, they are the Giraffe and Zebra's friends, but the Giraffe and Zebra aren't theirs.
- Jaguar: The smarter member of the Leopard/Jaguar duo
- Leopard: The idiot member of the Leopard/Jaguar duo
- Pau Amma: A giant crab, who plays with the sea, the shows antagonist.
- Kangaroo: A humble creature, with huge legs. Used to be vain
- Dingo Dog: The wild dog sent to chase Kangaroo
- Wallabies: The supporters, cheerleaders, and fangirls of both Kangaroo and Dingo Dog.
- Crocodile: the Crocodile lives in the Limpopo and is a very shady character.
As Styles & Drewe describe on their website, the show that we know today took almost 25 years. It started when they were both young writers and won a competition to help produce the show. After many re-writes and a complete new show (HONK! the musical was written when they decided to take a break), Just So: The Musical was created.
This information was taken from a much longer article from Stiles and Drewe's website