The 2013 Tony Award-winning Huntington Theatre Company in Boston is currently playing host to "The Jungle Book," a stage production inspired by the 1967 Disney film. NY1's Frank DiLella filed the following report.
Based on both Rudyard Kipling's collection of stories and the Disney animated feature, the stage production of "The Jungle Book" tells the tale of a young boy named Mowgli who comes to age in the wild courtesy of some furry friends.
The musical makes its way to Boston after a world premiere at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago earlier this year. Experimental director and book writer Mary Zimmerman is at the helm.
"The kind of story it is is the kind of story I like to do," Zimmerman says. "Episodic, that's really actually about something."
Zimmerman is best known for converting Ovid's myths into a theatrical oasis with her production of "Metamorphoses," which played Broadway back in 2002. Similar to that experience, she approached "The Jungle Book" by writing the script during the rehearsal process.
"I've just been doing this so long that I have a certain level of confidence about it," she says. "I like, I think in that pressure, that there's an opening date, that tickets are already sold, set is designed, something cracks open in me and I work very un-self-consciously because there's just not time to second guess, and I'm writing for the people that I've cast, trying to make it work for them as well as the character, fuse those things together.
As for the show's score, Zimmerman took signature songs from the film and fused them with authentic Indian sounds. Academy Award-winning duo Richard Sherman and his late brother, Robert, wrote the majority of the tunes featured in the film and musical.
"One thing that the Indian music had and American jazz had, American swing had, is a beat. There's always a beat going," Richard Sherman says. "So this 'Jungle Book' production is giving the world something very special."
Seasoned Broadway veteran André De Shields plays King Louie, the cool-scatting orangutan, and like the character in the film, he gets to sing the Sherman brothers tune "I Wanna Be Like You."
"Perhaps it's an overstatement to say that it is the music of the spheres, but that's the way I respond to it," De Shields says.
Consider that a strong response, as Mr. De Shields even gave me my own personal performance of his Act 1 closer in his dressing room.
While there are no set plans to move "The Jungle Book" to New York just yet, according to sources, the show may see life on an international stage in the near future.