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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Giving ‘Jungle Book’ its beat

Indian, Western musical fusion adds to staged Kipling tale

“Now I’m the king of the swingers, oh, the jungle VIP.” Richard Sherman is sitting at a piano in a studio at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Calderwood Pavilion, playing and warbling “I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” which he and his late brother, Robert, wrote for the animated 1967 Disney film “The Jungle Book.” He’s flanked on the piano bench by Mary Zimmerman, the director of the Huntington Theatre Company’s current adaptation of “The Jungle Book,” and Doug Peck, who did the production’s musical orchestration and arrangements.

Sherman is 85, but he performs with the zip of an 18-year-old, stretching out the ending of the song like the pro he is: “I wanna be like you. One more time. I wanna be like you. Take me home, daddy. I wanna be like you.” Finishing up with a big tremolo as Zimmerman and Peck convulse with laughter, he calls it “the never-ending ending.”

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