Throughout the run of The Jungle Book, we’ll be getting to know the cast through a series of interviews with the people that make up this crazy talented ensemble. Check back weekly for new posts, and if you haven’t already, buy your tickets to The Jungle Book now, before it’s sold out!
Are you a fan of the film version of The Jungle Book? Did you have a favorite character or song? A childhood memory of the movie?
I was a huge fan. They say that every kid has a Disney movie that speaks to them and this one was mine. It is about a young, South Asian kid and that’s exactly what I was when I saw it. I wanted to be Mowgli so bad. I had a picture book of the movie that came with a cassette narration that I literally broke cause I listened to it so much.
What about this role most terrifies you? What most delights you?
Giving animals human characteristics both delights me and terrifies me. That, and having to tap dance.
What should audiences expect when they come see The Jungle Book?
The unexpected. This show is really becoming that beautiful mix where commercial theater and art mix. The costumes are so vibrant, the dance so energetic. I think one of the other things that may surprise people is that there is a lot more of Kipling’s material in this play along with the original Disney characters.
What is it like working with Mary?
She is such a visionary. The amazing thing about her though is her humanity. How approachable, present she is, she cares deeply for her company. She has such a strong vision for her shows and a strong vision for you (as in the company member) in her show. She challenges you without ever raising her voice. It’s been quite a ride so far.
Why did you want to play this character in The Jungle Book?
I wanted to work with Mary, but more than that, as a South Asian actor there are not a lot of shows for us. I appreciate the opportunity to show the culture that I grew up with. That’s something first generation people rarely get to do on stage. Often, my goal as an artist to share the immigrant experience because it is so pervasive in my life.
What’s been your favorite part of the process so far?
Getting to hear our amazing orchestra play. Doug Peck (our musical director/arranger) has created such amazing mash-up of south Asian music and Dixieland jazz/swing; they rock. I keep waiting to hear Jay-Z come in and rap over it. Second to that, watching the work of our Tony-winning choreographer, Christopher Gattelli, and his associate, Lou.
Favorite part about working at the Goodman and/or in Chicago?
I came out of the DC theater scene so I have a real appreciation and respect for Chicago theater and their artists. There are some great associations between theaters here and there (last season’s Red being one). Many of my acting heroes are from here. I love being at the Goodman because this is a great environment for art to be made. There is so much history here and they aren’t afraid to take chances. People may not see a Disney movie as a risk, but it is because Mary isn’t making “safe choices.” Plus, the Chicago audience is so smart. It’s going to be fun to see what they think of us.
Favorite professional role/production you were in?
The show I’m working on now is always my favorite. But I did a version of Oklahoma! at Arena Stage recently (starring E. Faye Butler, among others) and The New Yorker came and named our entire ensemble “One of the best 10 performances of the year.” That was special. Also, I won a Drama Desk Award last month for an off-Broadway production of Working. The same production that played here last year again with E. Faye & some other great Chicago performers. I had been working on that show for 4 1/2 years. Chicago is the only place I didn’t do it. That was special too.
Throughout the run of The Jungle Book, we’ll be getting to know the cast through a series of interviews with the people that make up this crazy talented ensemble. Check back weekly for new posts, and if you haven’t already, buy your tickets [hyperlink to buy tickets page] to The Jungle Book now, before it’s sold out!
What is your favorite Richard Sherman song, and why?
Too many to name. I would probably have to say “I Wanna Be Like You,” with “Winnie the Pooh” as a runner-up. I went to the Disney parks a lot as a kid because my Dad’s best friend lived minutes away from it so it was a cheap destination for us. Going to a Disney park is like putting a Sherman brothers playlist on shuffle. I hope the “Tiki Tiki Room” is first....