The Jungle Book Musical, Directed by Mary Zimmerman, Extends Again at the Goodman
By Andrew Gans
The world premiere of The Jungle Book, which officially opened at Chicago's Goodman Theatre July 1 following previews that began June 21, has again extended its run.
Originally scheduled to play through Aug. 4, performances were previously extended to Aug. 11. The production will now continue through Aug. 18. As previously reported, The Jungle Book will then transfer to Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, running Sept. 7-Oct. 6.
Based on Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling's 1893 collection of stories set in the Indian jungle and Walt Disney's 1967 animated film, the musical features direction by Mary Zimmerman.
The cast is led by ten-year-old Akash Chopra as Mowgli, the young, spunky and stubborn boy (Roni Akurati plays the role at select performances); Usman Ally as Bagheera, the wise old panther who is serious about the rules of life and the laws of the jungle; Elena Flores as Raksha, the warm, fawning Mother Wolf (Flores will play the Boston run, while Anjali Bhimani appears in Chicago); Kevin Carolan as Baloo the bear, the carefree and irresponsible tutor to Mowgli; Glory Curda as the Little Girl; Thomas Derrah as Kaa, the sinewy, serpentine sly-but-charming villain; André De Shields as King Louie, the ambitious-but-scattered, comic, dreaming orangutan; Nehal Joshi as Rama, a wolf leader; and Larry Yando as Shere Khan, the tiger, the crafty, powerful and dangerous arch-villain.
The company also features Jeremy Duvall, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Monique Haley, Ed Kross, Govind Kumar, Alka Nayyar, Geoff Packard, Timothy Wilson and Victor Wisehart.
The Jungle Book is produced by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, which is providing financial support, creative consultation and access to song material never before heard onstage.
“Working with Mary Zimmerman as she and her astonishing team begin to bring the show to life has been a joy,” said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions, in an earlier statement. “As this cast of world-class stage actors proves, she has always attracted the very best theatre collaborators and we cannot wait to see what they’ll conjure.”
Richard M. Sherman collaborated on this production, providing Doug Peck (music director, piano and harmonium) access and permission to adapt songs that Sherman and his brother, Robert, wrote for the film, unused songs written for the film, plus new lyrics written for this production.
“Favorites like ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘Trust in Me’ will make great appearances,” said Peck, who attended two music festivals while in India to explore the country’s Northern Classical/Hindustani and Southern Classical/Carnatic traditions. “‘Colonel Hathi’ will probably feel like a musical/dance highlight—one of the biggest moments—and ‘Baloo's Blues’ will be the debut of a new piece of material."
Eight musicians from the Chicago production will travel to Boston with Peck to play in the 12-member orchestra that features a blend of jazz and Indian instruments: Victor Garcia (trumpet); Shivalik Ghoshal (tabla); Ronnie Malley (percussion); Nick Moran (woodwinds); Saraswathi Ranganathan (veena); and Anuradha Sridhar (violin). A sitar player (Neel Murgai) is also part of the orchestra, along with a drummer/percussionist (Sarah Allen), a trombonist (Steven Duncan), a bassist (Larry Kohut) and a woodwinds player (Juli Wood). The orchestra contractor is Heather Boehm.
The creative team also includes Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli, who worked with choreographer/dancer Hema Rajagopalan (founder and artistic director of Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre), scenic designer Daniel Ostling, costume designer Mara Blumenfeld, lighting designer T.J. Gerckens and sound designers Josh Horvath, Ray Nardelli and Andre Pluess. Lou Castro is the associate choreographer, and Hema Rajagopalanaz is the Indian dance consultant. Production stage manager is Alden Vasquez.
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