Recommended*** When it was announced that Mary Zimmerman was recreating “The Jungle Book” for the stage, I was delighted- imagine , if you will, this genius playwright taking the Disney animated film and the works of Kipling as a live musical on the stage at Goodman, and I am sure that you can feel the same elation and high anticipation that many Chicago theater audiences felt. While, I must say that I did enjoy the production, now making its “Theatrical Debut”, there are still some flies in the ointment ( so to speak) that when fixed can make this production one that will be enjoyed by theater audiences fro generations to come!
This production features songs from te animated film( Richard M.Sherman and Robert B. Sherman) as well as original music for this production ( Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky,Terry Gilkyson and Richard M. Sherman) and musical direction by Doug Peck to go along with direction by Ms Zimmerman and some clever choreography by Christopher Gattelli. This production is pure “spectacle” filled with a colorful set (Daniel Ostling), colorful and clever costumes (Mara Blumenfeld),great lighting (T.J. Gerckens) and near perfect sound by Ray Nardelli,Joshua Horvath and Andre J. Pluess. The cast of actors that bring this story to life is amazing. The story, again, a combination of the Disney animated film and Kipling’s poetic look at “loss of childhood innocence” is a well conceived look at the world as we meet a “human cub” Mowgli ( who begins as a puppet and then is portrayed with great skill by the incredible ten years old,Akash Chopra) who we follow as he is being brought from the world of the jungle, where he has been raised to be returned to the world of the human, where he belongs. It is an incredible journey.One that teaches not only our hero, but all the other jungle denizens!
The colorful tales is told by Elephants,Serpents, a panther, a bear, vultures, orangutans and of course the tiger ( the villain of the tales, played by one of Chicago’s finest Larry Yando, who as always has just the right charm to balance out his evilness. The panther who is responsible for following the rules of the jungle is portrayed with a special touch by Usman Ally and two fo the show stopping numbers are handled by Andre DeShields as King Louie ( the comic Orangutan) and Kevin Carolan as Baloo the Bear. In addition, the stage at the Goodman is filled with lots of other solid talents,Ed Kross,Govind Kumar,Victor Wisehart,Monique Haley, Jeremy Duvall, Nikka Graff Lanzarone,Thomas Derrah and Geoff Packard- there are many more, each bringing his or her role/animal to the tale being told.
The orchestra, which moves about the stage and into the story itself during the two plus hours of this production is composed of 12 musicians and Doug Peck bringing us the sounds of India as our other designers have done with costumes,set and design of lighting- while we know we are not in India’s jungles, we can feel that during this two hours plus, we have been transported from Dearborn between Lake and Randolph to another place, a special place, one that brings a story of growth, honor and loyalty to our eyes and ears, and yes, to our hearts.
This sterling production, which I am sure will get even better during its inital run, will continue at The Goodman Theatre through August 11the with performances as follows:
Tuesdays,Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Matinees Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.*
* check with box office on special dates
Tickets range from $30- $125 ( if bringing children, I suggest 6 and up, know that there are no bad seats and the balcony may work better for them to see the entire stage)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The jungle Book”