The Jungle Sings & Sways: Music & Dance in The Jungle Book

by:  Neena Arndt at 09/19/2013

Akash Chopra (Mowgli) and Kevin Carolan (Baloo) in The Jungle Book. Photo: Liz Lauren

Years after his uncle Walt’s death, Roy E. Disney commented, “With The Jungle Book, he certainly got hooked on the jungle and the characters that lived there.” Indeed, Walt became fascinated with the Kipling-based anthropomorphic jungle-dwellers who cavorted and crooned in the last animated feature that he personally oversaw. And when the movie was released ten months after his 1966 death, audiences worldwide were enthralled by characters who ranged from a wide-eyed “man cub” to a barbershop quartet of mop-topped vultures, to a blithe bear with a laissez- faire worldview.

The songs in the film (with the exception of “The Bare Necessities”) were written by Walt Disney’s favorite songwriting duo, Richard and Robert Sherman. By the time they worked on The Jungle Book in 1966, the prolific brothers had already won two Academy Awards for their work on Mary Poppins (for Best Original Score, and Best Original Song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”), and had also penned the buoyant “It’s A Small World (After All).” Nearly half a century after composing The Jungle Book, Richard Sherman enthusiastically recalls his days working with Mickey Mouse’s creator. “My brother Bob and I were staff songwriters, and Walt brought in a whole bevy of animators and story men — the concept people — and we had a meeting. The first thing he said was ‘How many of you have read The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling?’ And nobody raised their hand, it was like a bunch of guys in school that didn’t do their homework. He said, ‘Well that’s good, because I’m going to tell you a story, and it’s based on The Jungle Book, but it’s the Disney version.’”

Sherman explains that Walt Disney’s concept of The Jungle Book was less “spooky and scary” than Kipling’s original. And even at that initial meeting, Disney had specific ideas about his characters. “He acted out what the characters looked like — Walt was a great actor and a remarkable storyteller,” Sherman says. “I remember he started looking the way King Louie is supposed to look, drooping his arms. He said King Louie is the king of the apes, and he’s a ferocious guy, but he’s funny! And he talked about all the various characters.” Once they understood Walt’s vision, the Sherman brothers brought the motley collection of characters to life using a wide variety of musical styles, from swing to jazz to barbershop quartet.

Adapter/director Mary Zimmerman

Now, Disney’s The Jungle Book is reimagined and reinterpreted for the stage, and once again, the artists involved must be stylistically versatile. While some aspects of the work are based on the animated classic, the creative team and cast have also worked with Rudyard Kipling’s original text — and have collaborated with Indian artists to infuse the work with sounds, images, and movements that are native to its setting. Richard Sherman, who counts The Jungle Book among his greatest professional achievements, leapt at the chance to revisit his work: he visited rehearsals frequently, provided unpublished Sherman brothers music, and wrote new lyrics to help bring the show to life. His new collaborators include director and adapter Mary Zimmerman, whose atypical writing process begins with the physical design rather than a script. Each of her productions start with the creation of the set and the casting of the actors, who are chosen before a single word is written. Once rehearsals begin, Zimmerman launches into the playwriting process, writing the script piece-by-piece each night in-between rehearsal and bringing in new pages in the morning. This process allows her to customize the script and staging of the particular strengths of the individual actors and to create the story-telling through the physical design as an “organic development of the whole.” Zimmerman has worked closely throughout the process with her design team as well as music director Doug Peck and choreographer Christopher Gattelli, who spent countless hours creating a music and dance vocabulary that brings Walt Disney’s and Rudyard Kipling’s adored characters to life, and gives The Jungle Book a fresh, stirring vivacity.

Doug Peck found that The Jungle Book presented specific challenges. “We have seven songs from the original movie, as well as one song from the straight- to-DVD sequel The Jungle Book 2,” he explains. “The Shermans gave us access to all of their trunk songs that haven’t found homes in shows yet; there’s one that was cut from The AristoCats.

As if this jazzy array of tunes didn’t provide Peck (who is arranging and orchestrating the music as well as serving as musical director) with enough creative fuel, he also worked with material that was, for him, considerably less familiar: Indian music. “I didn’t know anything about Indian music before this started — but I’ve been to India twice now for music festivals, focusing on both North Indian and South Indian music, because we’re pulling from both cultures,” he explains. “We’re not doing authentic Indian music or authentic jazz; we’re fusing the two and making a new thing. There are six Indian musicians and six jazz musicians in our twelve- person orchestra.”

The movement vocabulary, too, will for most audiences merge familiar and foreign elements. Choreographer Christopher Gattelli trained in Western dance forms, beginning with tap at age eight, and later adding ballet, jazz, and modern dance. His movement, seen in such Broadway productions as Newsies The Musical (for which he won a Tony Award for Best Choreography) and revivals of South Pacific and Godspell, reflects both his extensive technical knowledge and an intrinsic appreciation for narrative. “I try to lead with storytelling all the time; I find what

Choreographer Christopher Gattelli directs Victor Wisehart (Ensemble)

makes sense physically that will help further the story,” Gattelli explains. For The Jungle Book, he is collaborating with consultant Hema Rajagopalan, the artistic director of Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre. Her company performs Bharata Natyam, a major classical dance form that emerged in the courts of India centuries before Italian and French courtiers began to formalize the dance style that eventually developed into ballet. Like ballet, Bharata Natyam requires years of training to master, and calls for both sinuous and sharp movements; unlike ballet, it relies heavily on expressive, specific hand gestures. Gattelli says, “I’ll have ideas and I’ll come up with movements, and I’ll ask Hema, ‘is this appropriate?’ and it’s great to have someone there who will say, ‘Yes’ or, ‘We wouldn’t really use this hand gesture for this.’ I want to stay true to the culture and the form. Yet at the same time we’re tapping and we’re doing swing and acrobatics, so it’s going to be a nice mesh of styles.”

For the creative team, The Jungle Book provides ample opportunity to expand their already formidable skills, creating a brand new work that nonetheless retains pieces of the Disney classic. “The Jungle Book was the very last personally produced picture by Walt Disney,” Richard Sherman recalls. “And he poured himself into it. The movie’s gigantic success saved animation pictures; they were dying at the time and this revived the whole idea. He’s very much a part of this production, even though he’s been gone for half a century.”


  1. Which among the links you shared in your blog last week is the most reliable essay writing service? I could try each one and see but I am pressed for time and I need one like now! Please advise me on this as soon as you can. Thank you!
  2. new balance ww850 kate spade splodge dot womens new balance 574 michael kors online outlet handbags gucci outlet men louis vuitton attitude sunglasses christian louboutin spiked where can i find louis vuitton outlet stores kate spade ballet flats nike zoom lj gucci shoes discount sale on michael kors watches chanel studs designer chanel michael kors canada outlet where can i buy louis vuitton online barbour jackets for men moncler designer new balance moyen gucci pumps kate spade style food chanel louis vuitton outlet store online authentic nike shoe outlet store nba basketball jerseys for kids louis vuitton mens watches nike zoom streak xc the weather chanell best new balance running shoes kate spade saturday shoes where to buy nba jerseys authentic michael kors bags christian louboutin miss tack are christian louboutin shoes comfortable new balance running shoes for women louis vuitton swimwear kate spade cards gucci group kate spade georgetown chanel large tote chanel purses official website girls barbour jacket christian louboutin shop michael kors watches silver prada bags online chanel perfume price kate spade bags cheap cheap christian louboutin heels infant gucci shoes christian louboutin sale shoes louis vuitton shoes sale prada cheap bags new balance shoe factory barbour jacket for dogs prada bags for cheap louis vuitton tote bags louis vuitton pumps michael kors mens wallet chanel online outlet michael kors navy watch buy cheap christian louboutin louis vuitton discount handbags michael kors watch reviews prada designer new balance classics m574 air max 90 best new balance shoes gucci wristlet kors by michael kors nike outlet lancaster nike air jordan release dates kate spade all typed up chanel le blanc free nike sneakers womens barbour jackets sale gucci outlet houston louis vuitton shoes outlet online kate spade outlet wrentham louis vuitton clutch purse christian louboutin banana christian louboutin ulona cheap authentic chanel bags watches by michael kors fake barbour jackets gucci watch outlet the louis vuitton outlet michael kors hamilton handbag louis vuitton evidence sunglasses for sale louis vuitton jeans sell michael kors bags cheap authentic chanel handbags chanel evening bag nba jerseys australia where to buy chanel handbag nike shox pink christian louboutin diamond shoes nike zoom flight 5 moncler long jacket nike shox nz mens infant new balance real christian louboutin where are michael kors outlets moncler womens christian louboutin black peep toe moncler sample sale chanel jewelry new balance pants speedy 35 louis vuitton shop gucci michael kors shoes for women chanel shoulder bag louis vuitton umbrella nike dunk wu tang clearance new balance moncler coats women new balance hiking boots michael kors fashion kate spade promo codes cheap nba jerseys china new balance outlet store coupon christian louboutin price range chanel shoulder bags cheap louis vuitton purses chanel headband christian louboutin pink pumps air max tn michael kors north south tote chanel sun glasses louis vuitton key holder free nike stickers new nba jerseys cheap new balance 574 chanel store online mens louis vuitton belts louis vuitton outlet online classic chanel michael kors twitter chanel pearl sunglasses michael kors ladies watches barbour flyweight chelsea quilted jacket cheap moncler vest sunglasses gucci outlet 23 air jordan christian louboutin clutches barbour trench coat moncler mokacine coat air jordan retro 2 kate spade coupon beaufort barbour jacket stitched nba jerseys nike air jordan 12 gucci handbags christian louboutin barbie louis vuitton bag louis vuitton mens shoes moncler windbreaker michael kors jelly sandals authentic christian louboutin outlet michael kors layton louis vuitton mens sneakers chanel gift set christian louboutin ireland new balance minimus shoes pink christian louboutin shoes chanel dress kate spade new collection kate spade dresses on sale michael kors cases louis vuitton don kate spade jackets kate spade factory store macy michael kors watch new balance cleats sale chanel discount christian louboutin men gucci bucket hat chanel eau premiere chanel outlet paris new balance kids running shoes nike free 50 reviews the chanel suit chanel authentic bags michael kors totes moncler coat uk prada wallets louis vuitton shop online womens nike free 50 moncler down coats nike outlet stores moncler blog authentic gucci belt brown barbour jacket red bottom shoes christian louboutin sale gucci back pack moncler mens coats new balance 993 mens purse forum louis vuitton new balance 615 barbour jacket liddesdale michael kors factory online
  3. kate spade hi 5 mittens discounted kate spade handbags studded christian louboutin gucci factory store michael kors layton chanel bags for less barbour linhope jacket is there a gucci outlet new balance watch christian louboutin mary janes michael kors fakes where can i buy a gucci belt mens gucci belts new balance 650 christian louboutin high tops christian louboutin for men barneys christian louboutin cheap nike shox shoes new balance factory store locations chanel reading glasses fashion gucci nike free 50 grey louis vuitton never full new balance 990 new balance tennis shoes sale nike air jordan 5v retro michael kors oversized watch kate spade vases cheap michael kors purses outlet where to buy chanel bags new balance mr890 moncler hoody where can i buy louis vuitton online discount nba jerseys chanel boy lipstick barbour tweed jacket nike outlet shoes christian louboutin prices kate spade new line wedding shoes christian louboutin kate spade wallet clearance michael kors for men watches kate spade large manuela gucci of fashion christian louboutin yellow shoes kids nike shox michael kors gold purse sell michael kors bags michael kors gold watch where to buy new balance discount gucci gucci sneaker c learance louis vuitton louis vuitton clothes christian louboutin decoltissimo michael kors discount handbags new balance athletic shoe chanel handbags discount chanel discount outlet new balance cleats barbour jacket mens christian louboutin size chart christian louboutin pigalle 120 kate spade baby bags air jordan v new balance outlet coupon chanel factory outlet online women new balance chanel sale bags gucci watch for women prada bag outlet buy prada shoes michael kors canada used chanel handbag mens nike dunk low nike free 50 womens purple michael kors watch louis vuitton on sale air jordan basketball shoes louis vuitton suitcases louis vuitton cosmetic pouch moncler stockists uk christian louboutin peep toe heels kate spade green handbag louis vuitton biography christian louboutin slingback pumps chanel shoes outlet new balance 490 outlet gucci handbags nike 360 air max chanel boot chanel uk wholesale nba jerseys china authentic louis vuitton outlet reviews wheather chanel new balance 802 chanel factory store barbour shaped liddesdale quilted jacket louis vuitton hoodie new balance for men prada messenger bags real louis vuitton new balance 843 louis vuitton mens bags christian louboutin shoes kate spade pocketbook gucci women sneakers louis vuitton bags women cheap authentic michael kors handbags new balance mr10 kate spade luggage moncler parkas chanel jeans is louis vuitton outlet real outlet louis vuitton buy cheap christian louboutin prada uk griffey air max louis vuitton handbags outlet authentic barbour motorcycle jackets authentic louis vuitton outlets nike dunk tweed barbour classic durham jacket where can i get louis vuitton bags cheap kate spade computer sleeve customized nba jerseys kate spade boston new balance baseball christian louboutin uk sale gucci dog carrier air jordan nike com michael kors riding boots new balance shoe factory prada handbags 2011 chanel eyeglasses christian louboutin open toe pumps kate spade dresses on sale shop discounted michael kors purses louis vuitton owner orange nike shox moncler wholesale chanel website kate spade saturday line barbour jackets on sale nude christian louboutin heels nba swingman jerseys wholesale shop christian louboutin shoes nike shox nz mens chanel store bags michael kors outlet store sale kate spade new york accessories chanel outlet ny nike r4 shox kate spade online how to tell real louis vuitton purse purple christian louboutin heels new balance ww850 gucci man kate spade make up bag new balance safety shoes christian louboutin new decoltissimo kate spade factory store michael kors handbags sale michael kors waikele christian louboutin blog louis vuitton purses on sale air max tn new balance 475 kate spade sale bag used chanel bags michael kors shoe louis vuitton outlet online authentic moncler trench coat prada shoes for sale chanel handbags outlet store 3xl nba jerseys used christian louboutin shoes chanel headband kate spade black bag louis vuitton outlet in usa gucci clothing barbour international you gucci moncler uk stockists gucci designer bags new balance 955 discount louis vuitton handbags tan christian louboutin new balance 471 michael kors wholesale nike dunk high tops christian louboutin burlesque chanel factory outlet usa chanel apparel moncler vest sale chanel 2.55 christian louboutin discount authentic gucci outlet online reviews barbour quilted jacket ladies cheap chanel bags for sale related links: [yanjing0128]

Post a Comment

User verification Image for user verification  


RSS Feed

Subscribe to RSS Feed


Tag cloud

Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre: 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115
South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA: 527 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02116
Main: 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115 | 617 266 7900 | BOX OFFICE 617 266 0800

© 2013 Huntington Theatre Company. All rights reserved | Trouble viewing this site? Please download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.