Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

An empty stage. Then, a shaft of light appears from beneath. The Eldest Magician climbs through an opening and begins reading the story of 'Before the High and Far-Off Times.' As he tells the story, amorphous and indistinguishable animals scurry on stage. The Eldest Magician, who created them, explains that he was very pleased until he realized that they all looked the same. He bid the animals to go out into the world and play, so they could discover what makes them different from the other animals ("Just So"). All the animals played their game, except for Pau Amma the Crab, who played with the sea. He grew to become so huge that even the Eldest Magician could not control him. Twice a day he would go out and search for food, causing flooding all across the land, making all the other animals very unhappy.

We come across the Elephants, whose noses are big and bulgy; they are traveling away from their homes because of the crab's flooding ("Another Tempest"). The Elephants are all convinced there is nothing they can do to stop Pau Amma, but the Elephant's Child feels differently. The Elephant's child asks many questions, which the Eldest Magician enjoys ("There's No Harm In Asking"). However, the other Elephants find this a nuisance and don't know how to answer his questions ("Silly Questions"). The menacing sound of Pau Amma interrupts their reverie and the Elephants continue their journey to higher ground.

As the Elephant procession exits, Elephant's Child watches them go and decides to find Pau Amma and make him stop. He turns and bumps straight into Eldest Magician. Eldest Magician encourages the flightless Kolokolo Bird, who supposedly knows where the crab lives, to join Elephant's Child on the journey to find the Crab. After much protesting from the Kolokolo Bird, she and Elephant's Child set off in search of the Crab. They jump into a trunk, which magically turns into a boat, and they sail away ("The Limpopo River"). Suddenly, they hear thunder as Pau Amma thrashes the sea and blows the tiny raft hundreds of miles off-course.

They are eventually washed up on an uninhabited island where the Parsee Man and his beloved Cookstove reside. Unfortunately, because of the Crab, the Parsee Man has no ingredients to cook in his lovely Stove. Cookstove and Parsee Man mourn the idleness of not being able to make one cookie or tart ("Living On This Island"). Elephant's Child and Kolokolo Bird ask the Parsee man if they might rest on the island for a bit and taste one of the Parsee's tasty cakes before they go off to defeat Pau Amma. He is hesitant, but when Elephant's Child gets the idea to offer a cake to Pau Amma, Parsee agrees to make one. As they chat, Rhinoceros bumbles on stage. He is the classic, greedy school bully, but he complains that there is nothing good about him and that he is glad to have his tight, thick skin ("Thick Skin"). He then continues on his way, knocking Cookstove over as he goes.

Parsee Man and Cookstove use their emergency rations to make the cake for Pau Amma. As they do so, they show Elephant's Child and Kolokolo Bird how to make cakes ("The Parsee Cake Walk"). Rhino, who smells the yummy Parsee Cake, comes back and tries to blend in amongst the dancing ingredients. As the completed cake emerges from the radiant Cookstove, Rhino leaps forward and greedily rushes off with the Parsee Cake. Parsee Man and Cookstove are beside themselves. They are despondent and vow to get revenge on Rhino ("The Crime"). Leaving the Parsee and Rhino to resolve their differences, Elephant's Child and Kolokolo Bird set sail once again in search of Pau Amma.

The little raft finally reaches the coast of Africa where they meet the animals on the High Veldt. Giraffe, Zebra and some Wildebeest lounge around the trunk of a gnarled old baobab tree while Leopard and Jaguar are making advances. The cats are hungry. The herd senses danger and disperses leading the cats on a chase ("The Chase"). Elephant's Child asks the ferocious felines for help in finding Pau Amma, so the cats offer a deal: they will help him find the Limpopo River in exchange for him helping them find Giraffe and Zebra. When Elephant's Child asks what the two cats might want with them, Jaguar and Leopard lie ("We Want To Take The Ladies Out"). Elephant's Child is horrified at their intentions and discusses warning the animals with Kolokolo Bird. As they talk, they fear they hear the cats coming back and duck behind the baobab tree. Instead, Giraffe and Zebra come back. Elephant's Child warns them about Jaguar and Leopard, but Giraffe and Zebra are nonchalant, explaining that that's just the way things are. Elephant's Child convinces them to join him and Kolokolo Bird on the quest for the Limpopo River, where they might escape Jaguar and Leopard once and for all ("Pick Up Your Hooves And Trot").

Later, the group comes across a jungle where they eventually decide to rest until tomorrow. Giraffe and Zebra stick out like sore thumbs and fear that Leopard and Jaguar are close behind. Elephant's Child reassures them they will be okay. In a tree above, the Eldest Magician has heard Elephant's Child's pleas and transforms them into their permanently patchy and stripey patterns, helping them to hide in the jungle's light patterns ("Jungle Light"). Happy that they are starting to find their individuality, the animals begin to celebrate ("Just So"). Their celebration is short lived, however, as their party is interrupted by the sound of crashing waves. The baobab tree collapses allowing sunlight to glare down into the clearing. The animals run about in chaos. It is the Crab, Pau Amma, who rises out of the water with his giant rosy-ruddy shell blotting out the sun. The rest of the animals draw back leaving Elephant's Child to face the Crab.

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 at the destruction and vows to go out and hunt for food seven times a day now, instead of two so that the waters will never be still; Elephant's Child fears he has only made things worse. Kolokolo steps forward and convinces Elephant's Child that they must go forward and continue their way ("The Limpopo River [Reprise]").

Act Two

The Eldest Magician comes into view, clearly contented with the way in which the animals are progressing ("Just So [Reprise]"). The magician is interrupted by the arrival of Elephant's Child and Kolokolo Bird having an argument. Elephant's Child is exasperated that Kolokolo has gotten them lost. A defensive Kolokolo Bird counters that Elephant's Child has no idea how to stop the crabby Crab anyway. Elephant's Child grows much more spiteful calling Kolokolo a freak because she's a bird that can't fly. He runs off leaving a dejected Kolokolo Bird pondering her fear of flying and a very displeased Eldest Magician looking on ("The Argument").

In the jungle, Kolokolo Bird sits dejectedly on a stump wondering why her courage is always failing. She wants to fly but is afraid to fall ("Wait a Bit"). Unbeknownst to Kolokolo, Jaguar and Leopard have been following her through the jungle. Meanwhile, Elephant's Child enters the desert, where he finds the Eldest Magician and immediately accuses him of being at fault. Elephant's Child remains spiteful but the Eldest Magician tells him the very thing he is looking for might be right under his nose. Eldest Magician introduces Elephant's Child to Kangaroo; an animal with huge hind legs and a long tail. Kangaroo relays the details of his beginnings when he had wonderful, normal legs ("Aboriginally I"). He wanted to be the most wonderful marsupial so he begged the Magician to make him different. The Magician has the Dingo Dog chase him. Due to the unending chase, Kangaroo's attributes began to change. His increasingly large pair of legs and ever-lengthening tail began to grow. As he ran he began to hop and as his legs got larger, he hopped so much that he could run no more; this was not how Kangaroo imagined he would be remembered ("Leaps And Bounds"). Elephant's Child leaves to find Kolokolo Bird.

He later finds her being tied up by Leopard and Jaguar, who are threatening her to tell them where Giraffe and Zebra have gone or they'll eat her. Elephant's Child says he will reveal if they let Kolokolo Bird go. They untie her and she runs away. In exchange, Elephant's Child draws spots on the Leopard and Jaguar so they can hunt better. The elated predators sneak up to the unsuspecting Giraffe and Zebra and the chase ensues ("Just So [Reprise]").

Elephant's Child, apologetic for the way he treated Kolokolo Bird, reflects on growing up and answer life's questions ("Does The Moment Ever Come?"). Suddenly, Parsee Man and Cooking Stove come over in a boat made from Parsee's mixing bowl. Rhino is following behind, but his skin is now extremely baggy. The infuriated rhino blames the Parsee Man for ruining his skin. It seems the Parsee Man filled his skin with cake crumbs when Rhino had taken it off while cooling down in the river on a hot day. When Rhino put the skin back on, the crumbs tickled him so much that he shook and rubbed his skin until it was stretched beyond recognition. Elephant's Child begs them to put things aside and become friends.

Rhino snorts and stamps and prepares to charge at the Parsee's most prized possession: Cookstove. Parsee Man begs Rhino to leave his stove alone. Rhino, Parsee, and Cookstove find that they can help each other, and all agree to be friends. They walk off arm in arm leaving the mixing bowl boat abandoned onstage ("Please Don't Touch My Stove").

Elsewhere, Elephant's Child finds Kolokolo Bird and asks her to forgive him. He sees water in the distance and exclaims they must be at the Limpopo River. As Elephant's Child gets closer and closer to the water, he hears a whisper enticing him. The head of a Crocodile lurches out of the water and invites him over. He offers to give Elephant's Child directions if Elephant's Child will give him a meal. When Elephant's Child gets closer, the Crocodile grabs his nose and tries to eat him. Kolokolo Bird appears on a branch and flies to the ground to save Elephant's Child. A struggle ensues. Eventually, Elephant's Child pulls free and Crocodile slinks back into the water ("Little One Come Hither"). Elephant's Child is very embarrassed to see that his nose has been pulled into a trunk. Kolokolo Bird encourages him to look on the bright side. Elephant's Child suddenly notices the abandoned mixing bowl boat. When Kolokolo mentions it is an old crab shell that has been shed, Elephant's Child realizes how they can defeat the Crab. If they wait till he sheds his shell, he will be vulnerable and the Eldest Magician can use magic to make him small again ("The Crab").

Elephant's Child finds Pau Amma and challenges the Crab to face him. As the Crab emerges from the water, the Elephant's Child signals to Eldest Magician who, with the smallest movement, casts a magic spell on the Crab which makes him shrink. When Eldest Magician asks the other animals what to do with the rambunctious but now tiny Crab, Elephant's Child prompts him to let the crab go to play in the sea. Eldest Magician has placed magic on the crab so that he can not harm the rest of the animals ever again. Elephant's Child then suggests that since Pau Amma can't play with the sea, the Moon should. The Eldest Magician approves and all of the animals celebrate ("Finale - Just So [Reprise]").