Based on the Disney Animated Film and the stories by Rudyard Kipling
Original Music & Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman
Additional Music & Lyrics by Lorriaine Feather, Paul Grabowsky,
Terry Gikyson & Richard M. Sherman
Book and Direction by Mary Zimmerman
Music Orchestration, Supervision, Adaptation & Arrangement by Doug Peck
Choreography by Christoper Gattelli
At the Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Wonderful new adaptation of The Jungle Book is an artistic triumph of the first order
Mary Zimmerman’s The Jungle Book is a re imagined wholly original musical based on the 1976 Disney animated film and the 1894 stories by Rudyard Kipling. This world premiere musical is one of the finest new works to come out of Chicago in years!. Fusing seven original songs by the Sherman brothers with several new songs, and, of course, the rousing anthem “The Bare Necessities” by Terry Gilkyson, Mary Zimmerman’s production is a stunning, toe-tapping family treat. This is a sophisticated yet heart-felt work that grabs you from the start and keeps you engaged throughout. Set in the jungles of India (set design by Daniel Ostling), we are in the world of the animal and humans were each has their own unique characteristics.
We see the wolves save the man-cub Mowgli (the terrific ten year old Akash Chopra) who is raised by the panther Bagheera (the show’s anchor effectively played by Usman Ally and nurtured by the lovable bear Baloo ( the lovable Kevin Carolan). Mowgli’s adventures start when Bagheera and Baloo realize that the man-cub must be reunited with the humans. But Mowgli is determined to stay with his animal friends. His elder advise him that the jungle can be a dangerous place with the snake Kaa (Thomas Derrah and the dreaded tiger Share Khan ( the deliciously treacherous Larry Yando) lurking about. Mowgli’s adventures allow him to meet the King Louis (Andre De Shields as the cool jazz king) and the bumbling British-influenced elephants who are trying to march around the jungle.
Mowgli’s journey is jam-packed with unique music from the 1967 film that fusees jazz, swing, Dixieland rhythmic traditions with the sounds of India. Each animal has their unique sound and musical style as Doug Peck’s clever mixture of musical styles produces several high energy showstoppers that worked nicely with Christopher Gattelli’s blended of Indian and American dance styles. The elephant march is also a parody of British influence on India that Kipling would surely appreciate.
Ultimately, The Jungle Book is a story of the loss of innocence of a child as he realizes that he must leave the cradle and move on with his life.. This is a joyous story filled with passion, acceptance, understanding and love. The nobility of Bagheera and Baloo necessitates that they aid the man-cub toward his ultimate assumption with humans. We relate and understand what must happen and we feel empathy for the panther and the bear.
The Jungle Book is a major new work that contains am amazing range of artistry. From the innovative musical arrangements by Doug Peck wherein he using jazz and Indian musicians with trumpets, clarinets, trombones, saxophones with Sitar, veena, carnatic violin and tablas to create a unique music; to the outstanding costumes by Mara Blumenfeld; to the sharp lighting by T.J. Gerckens to the imaginative staging by director Mary Zimmerman, we experience a delightful story filled with jubilant sangs and dances and populated by spirited characters led by the outstanding performance by young Akash Chopra. The Jungle Book is stylized, refreshing new musical that is amazingly polished and near finished and ready for Broadway. I’m betting that Chicago will export another hit show to NYC with The Jungle Book. This family friendly show will please all with its honesty and its polished stage craft.
Talk Theatre in Chicago p0dcast
Date Reviewed: July 1, 2013
For more info checkout The Jungle Book page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, call 312-443-3800, www.goodmantheatre.org. tickets $30 – $125, Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours , 15 minutes with intermission, through August18, 2013