WHEN you are up against a Disney classic loved by millions, you have your work cut out to produce a show that's entertaining, fast-moving and fun in comparison. Yet the Birmingham Stage Company does exactly that with its production of The Jungle Book.

From the moment we see the baby Mowgli being cared for by a pack of wolves, we take the creatures of the jungle to our hearts. All our favourites are here - from the loveable cuddly Baloo, played by Tony Jayawardena, whose hugs smother Mowgli, to Mary Betts' excellent Kaa, the cunning snake, who fancies choosing her supper from the children in the audience.

Children love the slapstick elements - the barmy Jackal who bursts into a Bee Gees number, the monkeys who blow raspberries and throw bananas, and the scene where Mowgli learns to say the word "shoe". Because the story is so absorbing, the play doesn't need audience participation to maintain interest.

The highlights were the foot-tapping new songs, every one as catchy as those in the film. A good show leaves us adults singing as we leave the theatre but you know it has been a true children's hit when four-year-olds are attempting the words of new songs on the way home.

This production is about to tour the country before its transfer to London's West End. It's fun, it's poignant and it's family entertainment at its very best. Catch it while you can.

Until Saturday, tickets (01325) 486555

Published: 11/03/2005