Goodman Theatre's upcoming season to highlight a Mary Zimmerman take on 'Jungle Book'

EntertainmentMusicArts and CultureGoodman TheatreThe Jungle Book (movie)John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationVictory Gardens Theatre

Mary Zimmerman will premiere her new stage-musical version of "The Jungle Book"in Chicago, as part of the Goodman Theatre’s 2012-13 subscription season, the Chicago theater announced.

"The Jungle Book," a Goodman production enhanced by the participation of Disney Theatricals, will premiere in June 2013, and will include the famous songs from the 1967 movie (“The Bare Necessities,” “I Wanna Be Like You,” “That’s What Friends Are For”), mostly penned by Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, as well as additional material that Zimmerman is adapting from the original Mowgli stories by Rudyard Kipling. "It's an iconic American property,” Zimmerman said. “That’s what makes it exciting and intimidating.”

In a statement, Disney Theatricals President Thomas M. Schumacher noted that the company had “entrusted” Zimmerman, whom he called “a great American artist,” with one of its most beloved and best-known properties. Zimmerman currently is credited as both writer and director. No other collaborators nor casting was announced, although Zimmerman has generally worked with such Chicago-based designers as Mara Blumenfeld, Daniel Ostling and T.J. Gerckens. In an interview Monday, Zimmerman said she planned to infuse new music with Indian roots with the familiar Disney numbers (Zimmerman also has access to the songs that were written for the film, but not used).

“It’s a similar challenge to ‘Candide,’ ” Zimmerman said. “There is a movie that has a certain tonality, and then there is the original source material that has something different. The question is how to combine the two.”

David Cromer, the longtime Chicago director and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grantee, will also makes his Goodman directing debut this September, directing Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth,’ the show that Cromer was supposed to be do on Broadway during the 2010 season, before producer Scott Rudin moved on to other projects. On Broadway, the stars were to be Nicole Kidman and James Franco. There was no word Monday as to whether movie stars would be appearing in Chicago (Rudin is not involved in the Chicago production but retains the New York rights).

The Goodman also will produce the first Chicago production of Jon Robin Baitz’ hit Broadway play, “Other Desert Cities.” Henry Wishcamper, demonstrably a rising star at the Goodman, will direct the Chicago premiere in January.

In April, 2013, Chuck Smith will direct the first Chicago production of “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” a comedy about issues of race in early Hollywood, by Lynn Nottage. One slot in the Goodman’s Albert Theatre, slated to be a Robert Falls project, has yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, three new works are on the Owen Theatre season. Victory Gardens Theater artistic director Chay Yew will direct Dael Orlandersmith in the solo performance piece “Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men,” a co-production with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The piece will premiere in Berkeley in May and will move to the Goodman’s Owen Theatre in September. Evan Cabnet will direct the world premiere of Christopher Shinn’s new play “Teddy Ferrara” (a gay-rights themed piece) in February, and Quiara Alegria Hudes, the book writer for “In the Heights,” will premiere her latest play, “The Happiest Song Plays Last” at the Goodman in April, 2013. It’s a piece about two cousins, one an Iraqi war veteran and the other a kitchen-table political activist, set to a soundtrack of traditional Puerto Rican folk music.

cjones5@tribune.com

Twitter @ChrisJonesTrib

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