powered by FreeFind


Just So

jsA Musical in 2 Acts: Book by Anthony Drewe, inspired by the stories of Rudyard Kipling; Music by George Stiles; Lyrics by Anthony Drewe

Just So was produced by Cameron Mackintosh at the Watermill and Tricycle Theatres in the UK; at the Goodspeed Opera House, USA; North Shore Music Theatre, USA. It won the 1985 Vivian Ellis Prize


"Before the High and Far-Off Times…came the Time of the Very Beginnings" when everything was just so, until Pau Amma the Crab, started playing with the ocean. This caused the lands to flood, disrupting the other animals and putting them in danger. While the rest of the animals accept their sad fate, however, Elephant's Child embarks on a journey to challenge and overcome the disobedient crab. Along the way, he meets other animals and discovers how the mysteries of their phenomenon came to be.



The stage is a blank canvas. A shaft of light shines up from beneath the stage and the Eldest Magician climbs through it. He sits on an old packing trunk and begins to read the story of "before the High and Far-Off Times" to the Best Beloved. As he tells the story, amorphous, indistinguishable Animals scurry on stage. The Eldest Magician, who created them, was very pleased …until he realized that they all looked the same. He bid the animals "Go Forth" and play at what they were so they would learn what they were. So the Elephant, the Zebra, and so on and so forth, played at being what they were.

All the animals played, except for Pau Amma, the Crab, who vowed to play alone in the deep water and never be obedient. He had grown 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. But no one, not the Tiger, not the Crocodile, the Butterfly, or the Camel would do anything to stop Pau Amma who had become as tall as the smoke of three volcanoes.

On a typical day, the Elephants form a circle around a waterhole. They discuss the dilemma of Pau Amma the surly Crab when Elephant's Child bursts through their circle asking questions. He believes "There's No Harm in Asking Questions" so he asks a lot of them. The other Elephants admonish the child that his questions are silly and a nuisance. The menacing sound of Pau Amma interrupts their reverie and the Elephants decide to leave the waterhole and head for higher ground in hopes of escaping Pau Amma the Crab's wet wrath.

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 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 for "The Limpopo River" in search of Crab. They jump into the trunk (still onstage) which turns magically into a boat and they sail off.

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 Crab, the Parsee Man has no ingredients to cook in his lovely Stove. Cookstove and Parsee Man mourn the idleness of "Living On This Island" and not being able to make one cookie or tart.

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. As they chat, Rhinoceros bumbles on stage. He is the classic, greedy school bully complaining about his "Thick Skin" which appears painfully tight. He then continues on his way (offstage) and knocks Cookstove over as he goes.

Though at first skeptical of the young pachyderm's chances of defeating Crab, Parsee Man and Cookstove are eventually won over and agree to cook a special cookie made out of the emergency rations as a gift so Crab will behave. Along with the various Cake Ingredients (Butter, Sugar, Flour) and Cookstove, Parsee Man shows Elephant's Child and Kolokolo Bird how to do "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 repay the 'loathsome oaf who stole their loaf'. 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, Koodoo, Eland, Bushbuck, Quagga and Zebra lounge around the trunk of a gnarled old baobab tree whilst Leopard and Jaguar are making advances. The cats are hungry. The herd senses danger and disperses leading the cats on "The Chase" When Jaguar and Leopard realize that Elelphant's Child and Kolokolo Bird are around they decide the pair might make a good meal and hide in order to surprise them. When Elephant's Child asks the ferocious felines for help in finding Pau Amma, the cats offer a deal: they will help the child find the Limpopo River in exchange for the child helping them find Giraffe and Zebra. When Elephant's Child asks what the two cats might want with the docile creatures, Jaguar and Leopard cheerfully explain "They Want to Take the Ladies Out" …for dinner. Elephant's Child is horrified at the cats' culinary 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.

But instead of the cats, Giraffe and Zebra come back. Elephant's Child convinces them to "Pick Up Your Hooves and Trot" and join him and Kolokolo Bird on the quest for the Limpopo River where they might escape Jaguar and Leopard once and for all. The group comes across a jungle where they eventually decide to rest until tomorrow. But Giraffe and Zebra stick out like sore thumbs and fear that Leopard and Jaguar are close behind.

Elephant's Child discovers the "Jungle Light" and how it can camouflage the animals beneath it. He prays to the Eldest Magician to help him make some magic. In a tree above, the Eldest Magician, has heard Elephant's Child's pleas and 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.

So pleased were the Giraffe and Zebra with their transformations that news spread far and wide and soon the Koodoo, Quagga, Eland, Bushbuck, and many other animals came to change into new camouflaged patterns. The Leopard and Jaguar wandered the Veldt and wondered where all their breakfasts and dinners and teas had gone.

It was as the Eldest Magician had asked at the Time of the Very Beginnings--that all the animals find their individuality. All the animals celebrate their new skins and security of being invisible to the hungry cats. They dance and sing of their success of becoming "Just So." But their celebration is short lived as their party is interrupted by the sound of crashing waves. The baobab tree collapses allowing sunlight to glare down into the clearing and the animals run about in chaos. It was the Crab, Pau Amma, who rose 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 center stage to face the Crab.

The giant crab asks who dare challenge him. 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 he causes 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 is now scared and concerned and doesn’t know what to do at all. He fears he has only made things worse. Kolokolo steps forward and gently puts her hand on his shoulder. She convinces Elephant's Child that they must go forward and continue their way to "The Limpopo River" (Reprise) and promises they will think of something to stop the voracious Pau Amma.


The Eldest Magician comes into view, clearly contented with the way in which the animals are progressing. He is coloring in pictures of Giraffe and Zebra in their new-found patches and stripes singing to himself "Just So" (Reprise). The magician is interrupted by the arrival of Elephant’s Child and Kolokolo Bird having "The 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.

Eldest Magician turns the scenery into a howling desert. Elephant's Child enters and immediately accuses the Magician of being at fault. Elephant's Child remains spiteful but the Eldest Magician counsels him the very thing he is looking for might be right under his nose and also to curb his spitefulness: "people who get too big for their boots sometimes find that their boots get too big for them."

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 in "Aboriginally I." He wanted to be the most wonderful marsupial so he begged the Magician to make it so. Eldest Magician recruited the dingo to follow him effectively making the marsupial the sought-after superstar he wished to be. Unfortunately for Kangaroo, the Dingo's chase was not exactly what she had intended.

The Dingo Dog chased her tirelessly. Due to the unending chase, Kangaroo's attributes began to change. His increasingly large pair of legs and ever-lengthening tail began to grow in "Leaps and Bounds." As he ran he began to hop. As his legs got larger he hopped so much that he could run no more.

As Kangaroo exits he wisely warns 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 Kolokolo Bird.

Back in the jungle, Kolokolo Bird sits dejectedly on a stump wondering why her courage is always insisting "Wait A Bit." She wants to fly but is afraid to fall. Unbeknownst to Kolokolo, Jaguar and Leopard have crept up. The cats tie her up and threaten to eat her. Elephant's Child bursts through the undergrowth to the flightless bird's rescue. Jaguar offers to let the bird go in exchange for the whereabouts of Zebra and Giraffe.

While Elephant's Child ponders his dilemma, the Jaguar, Leopard, Kolokolo Bird, Giraffe, and Zebra encourage the elephant to "Take Your Time." Elephant is concerned for Kolokolo and Giraffe and Zebra. He finally offers himself in exchange for the bird. But when he is tied up, the cats refuse to let the bird go.

In an effort to distract the ravenous cats, Giraffe and Zebra taunt and tease them. The cats can only hear and smell their favorite prey since Giraffe and Zebra are perfectly camouflaged by their new skins. Elephant's Child offers to show Leopard and Jaguar how they can change their skins too in exchange for his and Kolokolo Bird’s freedom. The cats agree, untie the two, and eventually become "Just So" (Reprise) by acquiring new unique and camouflaged hides of their own.

The elated predators sneak up to the unsuspecting Giraffe and Zebra and the chase ensues. Giraffe and Zebra challenge the two cats in a virtuosic dance. Jaguar and Leopard, not to be outdone, try to top it.

Meanwhile Elephant's Child is searching for a now hidden Kolokolo Bird in order to apologize. The apologetic pachyderm relays the hints that Eldest Magician gave him regarding the near proximity of the Limpopo River. Kolokolo remains unconcerned as the Parsee Man and Cooking Stove enter in a boat made from an upturned crab shell with Rhino swimming close behind.

An already frustrated Elephant's Child, admonishes the group to quit acting like children and make friends. 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 really 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.

The Rhino snorts and stamps and prepares to charge at the Parsee’s most prized possession—Cookstove. Parsee Man begs Rhino "Please Don't Touch My Stove." Rhino, Parsee, and Cookstove all agree to be friends. They walk off arm in arm leaving the crab shell abandoned onstage.

Elephant's Child 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 to come closer. The head of a Crocodile lurches out of the water and invites "Little One Come Hither." 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 the terrified pachyderm’s nose and tries to eat him. Kolokolo Bird appears on a branch and, though scared, flies/falls to the ground to save Elephant's Child. A struggle ensues. Eventually Elephant’s Child pulls free and Crocodile slinks back into the water. 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 of having such a long nose and Elephant's Child apologizes for being so rude.

Although both are weary and wonder "Does the Moment Ever Come" for them to achieve their goal, Kolokolo convinces Elephant’s Child to stay the course and continue the quest.

Elephant's Child suddenly notices the abandoned crab shell. When Kolokolo mentions it is an old crab shell that has been shed, Elephant's Child realizes how they can defeat the Crab. Eldest Magician appears and narrates while Elephant’s Child and Kolokolo Bird put their plan into action. ("If")

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 on the Crab which makes him finally 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 put a magic on the crab so that he can not harm the rest of the animals anymore.

All of the animals and Eldest Magician celebrate their victories and their uniqueness with a grand "Finale."

Musical Numbers

  1. Just So
  2. Another Tempest
  3. There's No Harm In Asking
  4. Silly Questions
  5. The Limpopo River
  6. Living On This Island
  7. Thick Skin
  8. The Parsee Cake-Walk
  9. The Chase
  10. We Want To Take The Ladies Out
  11. Pick Up Your Hooves
  12. Jungle Light/Just So (reprise)
  13. Act One Finale/ The Limpopo River (reprise)
  14. Entr'acte
  15. The Argument
  16. Wait A Bit
  17. Aboriginally I
  18. Leaps and Bounds
  19. Does The Moment Ever Come?
  20. Please Don't Touch My Stove
  21. Little One Come Hither
  22. If
  23. Just So/The Limpopo River (reprise)


Main Characters:

Secondary Characters (In Order of Appearance):



Character Breakdown

  1. COOKING STOVE The Parsee Man's most beloved possession that is feeling neglected due to its lack of use - .
    Male, Any Age (Range: A#2 - F4)
  2. CROCODILE A sinister, hungry, shady crocodile who is hungry for his next meal. - Male, 25-45 yrs old - ( Range: Gb2 - G4)
  3. ELDEST MAGICIAN (STORYTELLER) An active character and the show's narrator, he tells the story to the audience and interacts with the characters on their journeys, acting as a God-like figure. - Male, 40-60 yrs old - ( Range: Bb2 - Ab4)
  4. ELEPHANT'S CHILD Our story's unsuspecting protagonist and hero. A kind-hearted and curious elephant who can be a little reckless. - Male, 14-18 yrs old - ( Range: C3 - G#4)
    GIRAFFE Zebra's open-minded friend. - Female, 25-45 yrs old - ( Range: G3 - D5)
  6. JAGUAR The smarter member of the villainous Leopard & Jaguar Duo. - Male, 30-40 yrs old - ( Range: C3 - A4)
  7. KOLOKOLO BIRD Elephant Child's reluctant and cynical guide. A gawky, sparky, flightless bird. - Female, 25-45 yrs old - ( Range: F#3 - E5)
  8. LEOPARD The dim-witted member of the villainous Leopard & Jaguar Duo. - Male, 30-40 yrs old - ( Range: D3 - G4)
  9. PARSEE An Indian man specializing in French cooking. Lives on an island with only a cooking stove for company. - Male, 35-55 yrs old - ( Range: B2 - Ab4)
  10. PAU AMMA The inconsiderate, self-absorbed King of Crabs who creates mayhem with the sea. The show's antagonist. - Male, 40-50 yrs old ( Speaking Role)
    RHINO A lazy, messy creature with tight, thick skin. - Male, 30-45 yrs old - ( Range: C3 - F#4)