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Bringing a snake to life was no small feat for ‘The Jungle Book’

September 9, 2013
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Published in Metro

It’s easy enough for a performer to dress up like a bear or a monkey, or any creature with human-like limbs. But a snake?

“How do you anthropomorphize a snake? It’s difficult, because you still need your arms and legs to get around,” says Thomas Derrah, who plays Kaa the snake in “The Jungle Book.”

One way is through ornate puppetry: Derrah operates the front of a 26-foot snake puppet to embody this villain of the jungle.

“I’m sort of the comic villain. Hapless, but dangerous,” explains Derrah. “He’s out to get Mowgli for dinner but he keeps getting thwarted.”

This Huntington Theatre Company production is based on the 1967 Disney movie and Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 stories. Richard Sherman, one of the songwriters for the film, worked with the new show’s creative team.

“I sing a song called ‘Trust in Me’ that’s very seductive. Kaa has this ability to hypnotize people with his crazy eyes,” says Derrah. “They fall asleep and then he eats them.”

The song is actually an unused number Sherman wrote for one of his other movies — “Mary Poppins.”

“I imagine it was orchestrated differently for ‘Mary Poppins,’” laughs Derrah. “It was probably one of the many times where the kids had to go to bed.”

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