By Robert Simonson
05 Jul 2013
|Photo by Liz Lauren|
The musical is based on English author Rudyard Kipling's 1893 collection of stories set in the Indian jungle and Walt Disney's 1967 animated film inspired by them, and is directed by Mary Zimmerman. Kipling, with his "white man's burden" colonialist view of the world, is not an author whose works have worn well in the politically correct world of recent decades, and Disney's film,though beloved by many, has become freighted with accusations of racism. For these reasons as more, the new Zimmerman musical has been followed with curiosity by theatre world observers.
The cast is led by ten-year-old Akash Chopra as Mowgli, the young "man-cub" lost in the jungle; Usman Ally as Bagheera, the wise old panther who is serious about the rules of life and the laws of the jungle; Anjali Bhimani as Raksha, the warm, fawning Mother Wolf; Kevin Carolan as Baloo the bear, the carefree and irresponsible tutor to Mowgli; Thomas Derrah as Kaa, the sly-but-charming python; Andre De Shields as King Louie, the ambitious, comic, orangutan; and Larry Yando as Shere Khan, the tiger who hates mankind. The show uses songs created by Richard and Robert Sherman for the film.
The news from the critics was largely good.
Variety said the collaboration between director and source "results in a colorful, musically vibrant, family-friendly show, surprisingly faithful to the film but with a superb, enriched book that’s recognizable as both Disney and Zimmerman," adding that, "While set in the jungle, this is no Lion King: The show is lovely but not a transcendent spectacle. It’s also not the acrobatically bouncy but unrefined Tarzan. Zimmerman’s touch is elegant and delicate, bringing out some of Kipling’s original story content to enrich the characters with material that is particularly attuned to his verse."Continued...