"Hey Zoe, since I took Ada to Oliver! you get to come with me to see The Jungle Book!"
"Is it at the middle school?"
"No, it's at the Goodman Theatre, near my office downtown."
"Then I don't want to see it."
Zoe missed out.
I loved every minute of the show, but the highlights for me were seeing (and hearing) "Colonel Hathi's March (The Elephant Song)," "I Wanna Be Like You," and "Bare Necessities." "The Jungle Book" was one of my very first records and I spent so much time looking at the record sleeve I can close my eyes and picture it. Now I have new imagery to recall--like the undulating hoops of Baloo's costume that helped actor Kevin Carolan lumber in a very convincingly bear-like fashion; the wolves' tails, which popped straight up when they were alarmed; and the elephants, essentially upright soldiers with large gray ears and wrinkled boots. I should note that all of the animal costumes were suggestive rather than realistic (think an orange striped maharaja-style outfit for Shere Khan), but the actors brought them to life through such convincingly animal-like movements and gestures. Look out for the scene when Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli--the snake is actually a mesmerizing dance performed by the ensemble with children's plastic balls.
The Jungle Book is appropriate for all ages, but at 2 hours 15 minutes long, it probably is best for kids old enough to sit still for extended periods of time.