The Jungle Book

by:  Todd Williams at 08/19/2013

I've decided to do a little blogging again. Not so much because I have the time, but because I miss it. And we have some very exciting projects to tell you about this fall!

The first thrilling project is The Jungle Book. We first heard about The Jungle Book back in the fall of 2011 when Mary Zimmerman and her team were here rehearsing Candide. It sounded so exciting - they would soon embark on their first trip to India to explore the culture, music, sights for inspiration. Mary would go back to the original Kipling text, the production would be more deply rooted in the jungles of India, and Disney would open up their music catalog, including the score of the great animated feature. Doug Peck would then weave in traditional Indian sounds into the jazzy fun of the original Sherman Brothers score. The project was intriguing and, at the time, I hoped I'd get to see it but it seemed beyond the realm of possibility that we would ever get to participate in bringing it to life.

Soon enough, however, we were talking to the Goodman Theatre about partnering with them and providing a home for a second production. There were many details to hammer out - budget, calendar, union agreements, did we have enough space, electricity, dressing rooms, etc, could we sell enough tickets and raise enough money to cover the enormous expenses. In many ways this is the largest production that we've ever put on the BU Theatre stage. It took month after month of due diligence and conversation before we all said YES! Along the way there were some thrilling temptations. The Goodman held a music workshop - and we first heard the first bars of "Bare Necessities" and a glorious fusion of Jazz and Indian music. Then we got a look at photos of Dan Ostling's set design and hints of what Mara Blumenfeld's costumes would look like. I've never had so many staff request to be scheduled to work on this production. And I'm pretty sure those photos went a long way in selling the project to our Executive Committee.

I traveled to Chicago and saw an early run of the not yet completed first act in the Goodman's rehearsal hall. It was so much fun to see "Bare Necessities" on it's feet, and realize how wonderful it was going to be to see the musicians onstage playing their solos. Scene after scene the joy and humanity that the cast was bringing to their animal characters left something of a perma-grin on my face. They hadn't quite blocked up to the end of the Act, and there was a short break in the action. Mary Zimmerman then said maybe they could do the Act I finale "I Wanna Be Like You". Across the room she asked Andre De Shields if he would like to sing it. There was a pause. "Of course I would like to sing it!" came the reply from behind some rehearsal props, as if there was nothing that could possibly make him happier. What followed was simply theatre magic.

That was in May. I visited again the weekend before press opening to see the last few preview rehearsals. More magic.

And somehow it is the now the end of August and The Jungle Book is moving in.

The Goodman has just completed their run of 65 performances and they are packing up the show to send our way. We'll kick things off in no time on September 7th to what will surely be packed houses. Tomorrow the stage managers arrive, on Wednesday the first two trucks will arrive with the lighting, sound equipment and automation equipment. Saturday morning truck number five will arrive and we'll have all of the remaining sets, costumes, props, and musical instruments on hand to be installed backstage over the next few days.

Next week Doug Peck will begin working with the musicians on Monday, the cast arrives for five days of rehearsals in the hall on Tuesday, we focus the lights onstage Thursday and Friday, dry tech on Saturday, and the cast will join us onstage Sunday for 50 hours of Tech and Dress rehearsals over six days. Our first Preview will be on Saturday 9/7 and we'll continue to rehearsal the show five hours a day alongside evening and weekend performances through Press Opening on September 18.

In the meanwhile I'll keep you up to date on our progress, and maybe share some pictures too.

I hope you'll come see it, and experience some of the joy and excitement that I've been experiencing for the last two years.

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About me

Todd Williams has contributed to the Huntington's blog since it was started in the fall of 2006, and he enjoys writing and sharing the Huntington's activities here whenever he can.

Todd started working at the Huntington in 1991 as light board operator, and then served as the Master Electrician for 10 seasons. Todd is now the Huntington Theatre Company's Production Mangager, the position he has held since 2002 .

Todd previously worked for the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, Trinity Repertory Company, and The Collins Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to the many shows that Todd has worked on here, his favorite project has been working with the Huntington staff, architects, consultants and contractors to design and build out the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, which opened as the Huntington's second stage in 2004.

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