By Todd Martin

Special to the Daily Herald

Acting like monkeys is allowed. In fact, on the Harker Heights High School stage during summer musical rehearsal, it's required.

Killeen ISD's annual summer musical, "The Jungle Book," brings high-energy song and dance during four scheduled shows.

Showings are set for 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday and June 29 in the Harker Heights High School Auditorium.

Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students. Parents may purchase a $5 pass good for all four shows. Children age 3 and younger get in free.

It's foot-stomping fun with the large cast of monkeys and other jungle creatures singing about the "bear necessities" of life.

The stage extends into the audience, providing a close-up look at the choreographed dance steps.

The "bear necessities" of life will come to you, they'll come to you.

Armando Fuerte, who just finished eighth grade at Patterson Middle School, was learning the essentials of playing the bear Baloo. In one scene, Fuerte gets to play a bear playing a monkey wearing a grass skirt.

That sort of fun, he said, is the reason people should come support the children's musical.

"The whole show is kids," said Fuerte. "It's singing and dancing - a lot of work," he said, catching his breath at the end of one of his 18 rehearsals leading up to the performances.

"I think a lot of people will be surprised what we can do," he said.

"I like it because it's fun and different than what I've done before. It's funny and sad."

When the young actors aren't doing their best to act like monkey showoffs dancing with King Louie of the Apes, they are cowering from the sinister tiger, Shere Khan, or mimicking elephants in formation.

Courtney Weeks, who completed eighth grade at Eastern Hills Middle School, said the production was her first experience in a musical.

Unlike other plays, Weeks said the show demanded high energy, taxing the actors and providing a great show for the audience.

"I like the energy and meeting new people here," she said. "The songs are fun. I think people will like the dancing."

Weeks, part of the Jungle, said groups of trees, flowers, bees and other creatures would act out parts of the story in addition to the familiar main characters.

The school district's summer musical features 73 first- through eighth-grade students from 19 elementary schools and seven middle schools, and draws on theater and choral instructors from multiple campuses.

Director Jeremy Falch, theater teacher at Eastern Hills Middle School, said the 18 days of four-hour rehearsals leading up to the four shows are a unique learning and bonding experience for students and teachers.

"They are learning so much more than fine arts," Falch said. "There's music, singing, beats and movement," he said, noting the variety of music styles and choreographed movements.

"It gives students a creative outlet and a chance to participate in theater," he said. "It's all about creating more access to fine arts."

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