Disney's Jungle Book, Crafted by Mary Zimmerman, Will Premiere at Goodman; Season Includes Other Desert Cities

By Kenneth Jones
February 28, 2012

The Goodman Theatre's 2012-13 season will include The Jungle Book, a new musical based on the 1967 animated Disney film and the stories of Rudyard Kipling. Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses) will adapt and direct.



The musical will borrow the film's songs by the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert. Performances will play June 27-July 28, 2013, in Goodman's Albert Theatre in Chicago. Zimmerman (The Arabian Nights, Candide) will use "her signature style of collaboration with her company of actors and creative team."

"We entrust this beloved title to Mary Zimmerman, a great American theatre artist, and Goodman Theatre, one of the country’s cultural treasures, knowing that it's found the best possible home," said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions, in a statement. "We cannot wait to see what The Jungle Book becomes in their extraordinary hands."

The production is one of four world premieres and two Chicago premieres at the Goodman in the coming season.

Acclaimed directed David Cromer (Our Town) will stage Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth; Henry Wishcamper will direct the Chicago premiere of Jon Robin Baitz's family drama Other Desert Cities (a current Broadway title); and Lynn Nottage's show-business satire By the Way, Meet Vera Stark will get its area premiere under the direction of Chuck Smith. These works will play the larger Albert. One additional Albert title will be announced.

In the more intimate Owen Theatre, expect three Goodman-commissioned plays: Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Chay Yew in a co-production with Berkeley Rep; Christopher Shinn's Teddy Ferrara, directed by Evan Cabnet; and The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Alegría Hudes.

The 2012-13 season also includes the 35th annual production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, directed by Steve Scott.

Here's a look at the three new works in the Owen Theatre:

Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men (Sept. 29-Oct. 28) is billed as "an arresting one-woman show" in which Pulitzer Prize finalist Orlandersmith "transforms into five unforgettable male characters whose outward dissimilarities belie their inescapable link: a traumatic past plagued by a cycle of violence and abuse. From Coney Island to Manchester, England, and back, Orlandersmith brings to life a series of harrowing stories that weave together each characters' friends, family, lovers and counselors into an explosive narrative that uncovers the darkest corners of humanity — and shatters notions about predators and their victims."

Teddy Ferrara (Feb. 2-March 3, 2013) looks at "Gabe's senior year of college," in which "his future looks bright," according to Goodman notes. "He runs the Queer Students Group, he finally has a single room and he recently started dating a great guy. But when a university tragedy occurs that makes national headlines it ignites a campus firestorm and throws Gabe's world into disorder. When new evidence surfaces, Gabe discovers that the events surrounding the tragedy aren't as straight-forward as they seem, and he is forced to question popular assumptions — and his own life's contradictions."

The Happiest Song Plays Last (April 13-May 12, 2013), by Tony Award nominee and Pulitzer finalist Hudes, is set "at the dawn of the Arab Spring in an ancient Jordanian town," where "an Iraqi War veteran struggles to overcome the traumas of combat by taking on an entirely new and unexpected career: an action film hero. At the same time, half way around the world in a cozy North Philadelphia kitchen, his cousin is taking on a heroic new role of her own as the heart and soul of her crumbling community, providing hot meals and a place to sleep for the needy." It's "set to the joyful sounds of traditional Puerto Rican folk music" and "chronicles a year in the life of these two kindred souls as they search for love, meaning and a sense of hope in a quickly changing world."

Hudes is the recipient of a 2009 Joyce Award for Theater to develop a new play drawing on the cultural heritage of traditional Jíbaro music. The Happiest Song Plays Last was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's 2011 National Playwrights Conference.

Robert Falls is artistic director of Goodman Theatre. For subscription information, visit GoodmanTheatre.org.