PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: "In the Jungle..." A Two-Show Day With The Jungle Book's Elegant Peacock, Nikka Graff Lanzarone
By Matthew Blank
Musical theatre favorite and popular Playbill contributor Nikka Graff Lanzarone is on her latest theatrical adventure at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, playing a 7'2" Peacock in the world premiere musical adaptation of The Jungle Book. The performer/photographer/blogger/podcaster shares a recent two-show day.
"Hey there, Playbillverse," says Lanzarone. "I know you've all missed my shutterbug antics while we've been here in Chicago with The Jungle Book, right? Well, never fear- I'm back! Not with a vengeance or anything, since I'm not really the vengeful type, but more with the trademark absurdity you've come to know."
"Anyway! Here's what a two-show-day is like for us in the jungle: you'll see everything from podcast recording to glamour shots of a wolf to André de Shields with a grapefruit in his mouth, two #SIPs and the fanciest Walgreens EVER. We're a rowdy bunch of animals and we hope you come see the show!"
The production will 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; Anjali Bhimani as Raksha, the warm, fawning Mother Wolf; 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.
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.
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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