Goodman’s “Jungle Book” hits the mark this summer, with the perfect mix of Bs.
Bs, as in Bollywood, beasts and the band.
For this theatrical version of a Rudyard Kipling Disneyfied classic, director Mary Zimmerman has created a beautiful blend of the familiar—songs like “The Bare Necessities” and “Trust in Me” will capture your kids’ attention—with a stronger nod to the book’s Indian tones.
The result? Highly entertaining and fresh dance steps on stage in addition to great vocal performances. I mean no slight to the actors, but I have to give it up for the band first—it’s not often musicians get to take the stage, and Juli Wood, Nick Moran, Steven Duncan, Victor Garcia, Neel Murgai, Saraswathi Ranganathan, Shivalik Ghoshal, Ronnie Malley Sarah Allen, Larry Kohut and Anuradha Sridhar were simply spectacular. Kudos to Doug Peck for his direction.
For the unititiated, the core of the story centers around Mowgli (Akash Chopra), a man-cub rescued from the clutches of Shere Khan (Larry Yando), the mighty Bengal tiger that wreaks havoc throughout the jungle. Bonds form, and Mowgli finds himself longing to remain in the only place he knows as those who love him, especially Bagheera the panther (Usman Ally) and Baloo the bear (Kevin Carolan) try to usher him safely to the man-village.
While everyone on stage turns in passionate performances, Ally and Carolan, along with Andre De Shields (as King Louie) and Anjali Bhimani (as Raksha) were amazing. De Shields (and that band!) turns in a show stopper at the end of Act One with “I Wanna Be Like You.” In fact, Act One ends on such a high note it had the finale feeling kind of quiet—until the cast comes out for its bow sequence that is more of a rollicking house party.
If you’re in need of a summer theatrical experience that speaks to kids older than the Emerald City Playhouse crowd, look no further. Even older tweens and teens will find “The Jungle Book” engaging and entertaining. It’s also eye candy for theater fans—the visuals and costume design bring the story’s animals to life, allowing the actors to slip easily in and out of multiple roles.
Thanks to a recent extension, you also more time to go, so don’t miss it!
“The Jungle Book” runs through August 11 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. For tickets, call 312-443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre’s website.