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. First up: Kevin Carolan who plays Baloo. Check back for new posts weekly, and if you haven’t already, buy your tickets to The Jungle Book now, before it’s sold out!
||Kevin Carolan (Baloo)
Are you a fan of the film version of The Jungle Book? Did you have a favorite character or song?
I'm definitely a fan of the film version of The Jungle Book, although my only experience seeing it as a child was in rerelease in theaters, wayyyy back in the days before VCRs. (Wait. Who just said "What's a VCR?"?) My favorite character is definitely Baloo. I loved Baloo because he sounded SO cool. And smooth, you just wanted to hang out with him. This was also my first exposure to Louis Prima, who's been a part of my musical landscape ever since. “I Wanna Be Like You” to me is one of the great feel-good songs of my childhood.
What about this role most terrifies you? What most delights you?
To be honest, what terrifies me most about the role is the incredible iconography that goes along with it. Baloo is a VERY well-known member of the Disney universe, and I don't want to mess that up. That said, the freedom that I’ve been given to make it my own, while still honoring the things that everyone loves about Baloo, has been a great gift that continues to delight me.
What should audiences expect when they come see The Jungle Book?
Audiences should expect to hear the songs they love from the movie, played by our incredibly hot orchestra; reacquaint themselves with characters they know presented in new ways, while keeping the spirit of these animals alive. And smile. The audience should expect to smile. I mean like those big, goofy, ear-to-ear-type smiles, you know? And they'll stay there for a while.
What is it like working with adaptor and director Mary Zimmerman?
This is my first time working with Mary Zimmerman, and hopefully not my last. The rehearsal room is the best kind of playground. Getting a few pages of script, reading through it a few times, getting it on its feet; this allows me to use my instincts and just react. The choices I make there, almost as if it's a cold reading, serve me very well as we start to flesh it out more. And when you try something, and it's greeted with laughter...well, then you know you're on the right track. Mary is the reason all of this works so well.
Why did you want to play this particular character in The Jungle Book?
I think the reason I wanted to play Baloo in The Jungle Book is because it fits. I mean that in many different ways. Vocally, Baloo fits in a very comfortable part of my range, but with room to stretch. Physically, the fit couldn't be more perfect. I can't count the times in my life I've been described as a “lovable bear of a guy.” However, most times I've been the one saying it.
It also fits still being associated with Disney. Coming from Disney's Newsies! playing Theodore Roosevelt, getting a chance to play with choreographer Chris Gattelli again, and going from a Teddy to a bear? Again, it fits.
What’s been your favorite part of the process so far?
My favorite part of the process is the relationship I've been able to develop with Akash Chopra, who plays Mowgli. He is so sweet, and such a naturally talented young man. My son, Jack, is the same age as Akash, and the rehearsals are very reminiscent of the playtime I have with him at home. The sense of imagination; that any object can stand in as any other object, or be used for its original function; the laughing, the singing, and just enjoying each other's company. It's very special.
What’s your favorite part about working at the Goodman and/or in Chicago?
My favorite part of working at the Goodman is the great sense of welcome I've been given by everyone here. I had always held the Goodman in high esteem, and I've been treated so well. It's hard not to geek-out about where I'm working, but I don't want to scare anyone, so I'm keeping it in check. And favorite part about Chicago? Where do I begin? The theater, the architecture, the people, the museums, Wrigley Field, the blues and definitely the Billy Goat Tavern.
What’s your favorite professional role/production you were in?
I loved playing Amos Hart on tour in Chicago. “Mr. Cellophane” is one of the great songs of musical theater, I got to sing it all over the world and there was never a night I didn’t love getting another crack at it. And the Newsies family has been one of the closest I've ever been in. I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with them, and for originating a role in such a great show.
What’s your favorite Richard Sherman song and why?
As incredibly hard as it is to pick one Richard Sherman song as a favorite, but if pressed I'd have to say "Let's Go Fly A Kite" from Mary Poppins. The words and melody never fail to bring me to glorious, happy tears, and I've felt that way about it since I was a child.
Don't forget to get your tickets to The Jungle Book now!