Originally posted on Variety:
With a history of infusing classic tales with fresh theatricality, auteur-director Mary Zimmerman (“Metamorphoses”) is both a natural choice to adapt a Disney film to the stage and a nearly impossible one. Her writing process, accomplished collaboratively in rehearsals, is always unpredictable and thus risky. So “The Jungle Book” reps a “special arrangement” between Disney and Chicago’s Goodman Theater: Disney Theatrical isn’t producing and thus cedes control, but also makes no promises about future life. The union 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.
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.
The animal figures remain upright and fully human, depicting their species not with masks or puppetry (except for the minimal exception of the snake Kaa), but with costumes that focus on a single key feature and with symbolic hand gestures based on classical Indian dance.