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Announcing Cast And Creative Team of Mary Zimmerman's World Premiere Adaptation of The Jungle Book

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(BOSTON)Mary Zimmerman returns to the Huntington Theatre Company for The Jungle Book, a world premiere stage adaptation produced in association with Chicago's Goodman Theatre. The production premieres in Chicago on June 21 and plays at the Huntington September 7 – October 6, 2013. Based on Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling's 1893 collection of stories set in the Indian jungle and Walt Disney's 1967 animated film, Zimmerman's adaptation of The Jungle Book is a music- and movement-filled adventure of young Mowgli's coming-of-age in the animal kingdom.

The Huntington today announces the production's full 18-member cast, select musicians in the 12-member orchestra, and Zimmerman's creative team.

The cast blends longtime Zimmerman collaborators with newcomers — including ten-year-old Akash Chopra as Mowgli, the young, spunky, and stubborn boy. Joining him will be:

  • Usman Ally (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Second Stage Theatre) as Bagheera, the wise old panther who is serious about the rules of life and the laws of the jungle;
  • Elena Flores (The House on Mango Street at Steppenwolf Theatre Company) as Raksha, the warm, fawning Mother Wolf (replacing Anjali Bhimani who will appear in Chicago);
  • Kevin Carolan (Newsies on Broadway) as Baloo the bear, the carefree and irresponsible tutor to Mowgli;
  • Glory Curda as the Little Girl;
  • Thomas Derrah of Boston (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Huntington) as Kaa, the sinewy, serpentine sly-but-charming villain;
  • André De Shields (The Full Monty on Broadway – Tony Award) as King Louie, the ambitious-but-scattered, comic, dreaming orangutan;
  • Nehal Joshi (Les Misérables on Broadway) as Rama, a wolf leader; and
  • Larry Yando (Candide at the Huntington) as Shere Khan the tiger, the crafty, powerful and dangerous arch-villain.

An ensemble of actors, dancers, and singers create Kipling's "people of the jungle"— vultures, monkeys, elephants, wolves, and more—including Jeremy Duvall, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Monique Haley, Ed Kross, Govind Kumar, Alka Nayyar, Geoff Packard (title role in Candide at the Huntington), Timothy Wilson, and Victor Wisehart.

From the imagination of Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman (Candide) comes a captivating new musical adaptation of a timeless favorite. The jungle springs to life in a kaleidoscopic song-and-dance-filled production that chronicles young Mowgli's adventures growing up in the animal kingdom. Based on Rudyard Kipling's time-honored tales and featuring music from the classic Disney film (including 'I Wanna Be Like You' and 'Bare Necessities'), this ravishing world premiere will enchant audiences of all ages. Adapted and Directed by Mary Zimmerman. Based on the Disney film and the stories by Rudyard Kipling. Produced in association with Goodman Theatre. Sept. 7 — )ct. 6, 2013 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre. Learn more at huntingtontheatre.org/junglebook"I'm absolutely thrilled to be returning to Boston and the to Huntington," says adaptor and director Zimmerman, whose 2011 production of Candide was the Huntington's highest grossing musical in its 31-year history. "I love the theatre and its audience. Our challenge with this adaptation is to combine the profundity, beauty, and even strangeness of Kipling's stories with the spirit and music of the film, which is all joy, joy, joy. I'm incredibly excited to work with this wildly talented ensemble of actors, singers, and dancers to create the world of the play. It is always joyful to reunite with many of my longtime collaborators, but it is also thrilling to add so many new voices into the fold."

"Having worked with Mary on remounts of some of her very successful shows, I was excited for the opportunity to collaborate on a new work with her," says Usman Ally. "Kipling's stories as well as the Disney animation were quite a big part of my childhood, and it's a unique position to be in working on the world premiere of the stage version. I'm looking forward to working with an ethnically and artistically diverse team in telling this story that is set in my parents' part of the world."

On collaborating with Zimmerman for the first time, André De Shields remarked, "I experienced Metamorphoses on Broadway in 2002, and was psychologically, emotionally, and physically mesmerized by the ease of the director's ability to use the myths of the realm of the gods to decode the sometimes paralyzing riddles of the human condition. I sat entranced and thought, 'I must work with this director.' That director was Mary Zimmerman. And now with The Jungle Book, I am excited about the possibility of achieving something similar by using the myths of the natural world."

The Jungle Book is produced by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, which proudly supports Zimmerman's development of this title, providing financial support, creative consultation, and access to song material never before heard onstage. "Working with Mary Zimmerman as she and her astonishing team begin to bring the show to life has been a joy," said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions. "As this cast of world-class stage actors proves, she has always attracted the very best theatre collaborators and we cannot wait to see what they'll conjure."

Legendary Academy Award and Grammy winner Richard M. Sherman is collaborating on this production, providing Doug Peck (Music Director, Piano, and Harmonium) access and permission to adapt beloved songs that Sherman and his brother, Robert, wrote for the film, unused songs written for the film, plus new lyrics written for this production.

"Favorites like 'The Bare Necessities' and 'Trust in Me' will make great appearances," says Peck, who attended two music festivals while in India to explore the country's Northern Classical/Hindustani and Southern Classical/Carnatic traditions. "'Colonel Hathi' will probably feel like a musical/dance highlight—one of the biggest moments—and 'Baloo's Blues' will be the debut of a new piece of material. The all-new orchestration includes a blend of Western instruments (piano, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone, tuba, flute, clarinet, saxophone) and traditional Indian instruments (harmonium, sitar, veena, tablas, tanpura, ghatam, Carnatic violin).

Eight musicians from the Chicago production will travel to Boston with Peck to play in the 12-member orchestra that will feature a blend of jazz and Indian instruments: Victor Garcia (Trumpet); Shivalik Ghoshal (Tabla); Ronnie Malley (Percussion); Nick Moran (Woodwinds); Saraswathi Ranganathan (Veena); and Anuradha Sridhar (Violin). A sitar player will join the orchestra, along with a drummer/percussionist, a trombonist); a bassist; and a woodwinds player.

The creative team also includes Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli (Broadway's Newsies – also Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), who will work with choreographer/dancer Hema Rajagopalan, (founder and artistic director of Chicago's Natya Dance Theatre) to combine elements of classical Indian dance forms with jazz, tap, and other types of movement to enhance the storytelling.

Scenic Designer Daniel Ostling, Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld, and Lighting Designer T.J. Gerckens—each of whom have collaborated with Zimmerman over the past two decades on a wide range of projects in theatre (Candide at the Huntington, Arabian Nights, Metamorphoses, and more) and opera (Lucia di Lammermoor and La Sonnambula for The Metropolitan Opera)—reconvene to create Mowgli's world on stage.

"Our set will have elements that are familiar to the audiences who know The Jungle Book but, at the same time, will be a world completely different from what they may be expecting," said Ostling. "Our India trip informed many of the choices we're making; we're trying to capture the riot of color, sound, and visual stimuli that come at you from every direction when you walk down the street. We want to take the audience on a beautiful visual and musical trip."

Of the costumes, Blumenfeld said, "The challenge is how to represent a world of characters that are animals. We've been very inspired by Kipling's description of the animals as 'people'—Wolf People, the Monkey People, the Snake People, etc.—and many descriptions of their physical attributes are in human terms—Bagheera's 'black watermarked silk coat' or Kaa 'shedding his skin like a tight-fitting jacket.' So, inspired by clothing from the rich traditions of India (and the British presence in India during the time of Kipling's youth) we hope to give each group of animals their own distinct look and a very human element."

Lighting Designer Gerckens added, "Even after working with Mary for 20 years, designing with her is always full of surprises; she is always pushing us to new levels and in new directions. It's amazing to have collaborated with her for so long and still be continually and delightfully surprised by the creativity and spirit of her work!"

Sound Designers Josh Horvath, Ray Nardelli, and Andre Pluess complete the design team.

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Mary Zimmerman (Adapter/Director) is the 1998 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the 2002 Tony Award for Best Director of a Play, and numerous Joseph Jefferson Awards (including Best Production and Best Direction). At the Huntington, she directed Candide, Journey to the West (also at the Goodman Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre), and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She is a member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company of Chicago, an Artistic Associate of both Goodman Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre, and a professor of performance studies at Northwestern University. She has adapted and directed across the countryArgonautika, Mirror of the Invisible World, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, The Odyssey, Arabian Nights, Metamorphoses (Tony Award), Secret in the Wings, and an opera with Philip Glass called Galileo Galilei. She made her Metropolitan Opera directorial debut with Lucia di Lammermoor in 2007; subsequent Met productions include Armida and La Sonnambula.

Richard M. & Robert B. Sherman (Original Music & Lyrics)have honors that include two Academy Awards (Mary Poppins), nine Academy Award nominations, three GRAMMY® Awards, 24 gold/platinum albums, a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Early hits, including "You're 16" and "Tall Paul," led to a long-term association with Walt Disney and more than 150 songs for Disney films, TV and theme parks ("It's a Small World" being the world's most translated and performed song). Their Disney film credits include The Jungle Book, The Parent Trap, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Winnie the Pooh, The Aristocats, and The Tigger Movie. Other films include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tom Sawyer, The Slipper and the Rose, Charlotte's Web and Beverly Hills Cop 3. Stage credits include Over Here!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London, Broadway, UK tour), Busker Alley, and Mary Poppins (London and Broadway).

Doug Peck (Music Director) previously served as music director of Candide at the Huntington. His regional credits include Candide (Goodman Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company); Carousel and Man of La Mancha (Long Wharf Theatre and Court Theatre); Porgy and Bess and Caroline, or Change (Court Theatre); Animal Crackers (Goodman Theatre); Fiorello! (Timeline Theatre); Oh, Coward! (Writers' Theatre); and work at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Drury Lane, Apple Tree Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Peninsula Players, and the Ravinia Festival. He can be heard on the recordings Bright Young People: The Songs of Noël Coward, Foiled Again: Live, and Frank Galati and Stephen Flaherty's Loving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein. Mr. Peck is the recipient of four Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Musical Direction. He studied at Northwestern University and Interlochen Center for the Arts.

 

ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON

Since its founding in 1982, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading theatre company. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current. Led by Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington creates award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington is in residence at Boston University. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.

 

Production Calendar & Related Events

    Post-Show Audience Conversations

  • Ongoing
    Led by members of the Huntington staff. After most Tuesday — Friday, Saturday matinee, and Sunday matinee performances throughout the season. Free with a ticket to the performance.

    Actors Forum

  • Wednesday, October 2 following the 2pm performance
  • Thursday, October 3 following the 7:30pm performance
    Participating cast members answer questions from the audience.
  • Humanities Forum

  • Sunday, September 29 following the 2pm performance
    A post-performance talk exploring the context and significance of The Jungle Book.

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