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In 1985 George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, two unknown graduates from Exeter University, won the first ever Vivian Ellis Prize. This national competition to find new writers for the musical stage brought them to the attention of the young producer, Cameron Mackintosh.

Their winning musical was based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, set to an eclectic, poppy score – and Cameron’s faith in the show paid off when it became a big hit – 19 years later!

Receiving its definitive production at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2004, Just So was recognised as a colourful and uplifting show that points out a simple but important truth: It can take just one small person to have a big idea.

“It’s a little gem – tuneful, witty, imaginative and accessible to all ages” The Daily Telegraph on the Chichester Festival Theatre production


At the ‘Time of the Very Beginnings’, the Eldest Magician creates a world of beasts and birds and fishes and is delighted with the results.

Until he notices a small problem: all the animals look the same.

Rather than making a ‘Big Magic’ to change them, the Eldest Magician tells them to go out into the world and find their individuality.

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Everything seems just so - until Pau Amma the Crab begins playing with the ocean, causing terrible floods that threatens the other animals.

To stop the crab, the insatiably curious Elephant’s Child goes on a quest to the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, guided by his reluctant new friend, the Kolokolo Bird, and together they meet many other animals and make many discoveries on their journey.

They discover how the Leopard got his spots, how the Rhinoceros got his baggy skin, how the Kangaroo got his bounce and how the hungry Crocodile can turn an elephant’s blackish, bulgy nose into a triumphant trunk worth trumpeting about.

At the end of his quest the Elephant’s Child and Kolokolo Bird bravely confront the Crab and make their own magic to make him ‘play the play that he was meant to play’.

The Eldest Magician is delighted that his creations have now become ‘just so’ and joins the animals in celebrating the victory of his unlikely ingénues.

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Just So was co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh at the Watermill Theatre in 1989, where it was directed by Julia McKenzie and then at Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre in 1990, where it was directed by Mike Ockrent.

The celebrated Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut produced a new version of the show in 1996.

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In 2002, Anthony directed an extensively reworked version at Boston’s North Shore Music Theatre in the USA, with designs by Peter McKintosh and choreography by Stephen Mear.

With the same team, Anthony directed the 2004 Chichester Festival Theatre production, which received glowing reviews and proved to be a big hit.

The CFT production was recorded and First Night Records issued the cast album. Josef Weinberger and MTI then published the show and began licensing it around the world.

Just So has since been produced all over the world and continues to delight audiences in countless productions.

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