EXTENDED Thru Aug 18th "The Jungle Book" (Goodman Theatre): A Dance on the Wild Side

EXTENDED Thru Aug 18th "The Jungle Book" (Goodman Theatre):  A Dance on the Wild Side

Goodman Theatre presents the World Premiere of THE JUNGLE BOOK.

Costumes.  Costumes! Costumes!! From the first glimpse of the sophisticated, stilted peacock, I fell in love with Designer Mara Blumenfeld’s 2013 Jungle Collection.  Blumenfeld terrifically combines Indian style garb and animal magnetism.  The ensemble is dressed elegantly with wildlife influences. Wolves have fur trimmed collars.  Elephants have oversized ears.  The tiger’s suit has stripes.  The look is posh pageantry for an adult take on a child’s cartoon.  Although I absolutely loved all the costume choices- the barefoot orchestra is even dressed like a tribal school marching band -, the look might not be kid friendly.  In other words, a younger audience might be confused in the more subtle animal identification.

With Adapter and Director Mary Zimmerman at the helm, a Disney classic comes alive in THE JUNGLE BOOK.  Zimmerman focuses her efforts less on the storytelling and more on the spectacle. The story may be light but this show has undeniably spectacular musical numbers.  It reminded me of “The Nutcracker” where the focus is on the series of dances.  The variety show feel is aided by Musical Director Doug Peck filling the jungle with drums and horns a plenty.  At times, the band members don ears and join the elephant merrymaking on stage.

Dance. Dance! Dance!!  Choreographer Christopher Gattelli busts some original moves on the dance floor. His monkeys are high-energy, tap-frenzy, playful.  They end the first act with a bodacious flourish.  In contrast, Gattelli has his elephants march with dignified uniformity.  The movements of the actors as animals are mesmerizing. They sniff.  They preen. They howl. Continually, Zimmerman has the wolves go from upright to all fours to scamper off.  The hysterical vultures perch on a branch. The illusion fascinates as the jungle cliques befriend the man-cub.

Even without a robust script, Usman Ally (Bagheera), Kevin Carolan (Baloo) and Akash Chopra (Mowgli) effectively become a makeshift family.  A protective Ally and lovable Carolan try to protect the precocious Chopra.  Their interactions are sometimes sentimental, sometimes hysterical.  Although the young Chopra endears with his fearless commitment to life in the wild,  his emotional transition into the ‘man village’ isn’t as clearly defined.  A scene-stealing Carolan sings and jokes with booming voice perfection. And the always animated Ally serves as a narrator-type in his conversational explanation of what’s going one. Ally acts as a tour guide in these tropical follies.  Later, he dominates the curtain call with full throttle pizzazz.

The curtain call was my favorite part.  It’s like the end of a fashion show when all the best outfits return to the stage for one last hurrah!  The talented and high-spirited cast save-the-last-dance- for-me.  They use the curtain call for a seemingly impromptu cast party. It’s a fun and colorful dance party! THE JUNGLE BOOK is truly a dance on the wild side.

Running Time:  Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission
At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Based on the Walt Disney 1967 animated film and Rudyard Kipling’s 1984 collection of stories set in the Indian jungle
Book and direction by Mary Zimmerman
Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Additional music and lyrics by Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky, Terry Gilkyson, Richard M. Sherman
Music orchestration, supervision, adaptation, and arrangement by Doug Peck
Tuesdays at 7:30pm (7/16, 7/30, 8/6)
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 7:30pm
Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm
Thru August 11th
Buy Tickets at www.goodmantheatre.org

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