By Andrew Gans
10 May 2006
Featuring direction and scenic design by Bob Crowley and a score by Grammy Award winner Phil Collins, Tarzan co-stars Josh Strickland in the title role with All Shook Up's Jenn Gambatese as Jane. The musical marks the Broadway directorial debut for Crowley, who is known for his innovative, Tony-winning designs for such shows as Carousel and Aida.
Crowley has tapped his years of experience to create a visual feast for theatregoers. Among the effect are walls of vibrant green vines; large, undulating flora; a chorus of swinging monkeys; tricks of perspective such as Crowley has employed in some past shows he has designed; and an opening coup de theatre involving a dramatic ship wreck and near drowning.
Composer Collins recently spoke with Playbill.com about the evolution of the design for the musical. "Originally, [Tarzan] was a huge show in the round," said Collins, "and then it went to a proscenium, which is kind of the way we all figured it had to go. But it was a double-sided proscenium. There were two audiences, in fact, with the proscenium in the middle of the audience. And that, of course, wasn't going to happen because it meant rebuilding theatres. It was fantastic, brilliant ideas, as one would hope and expect from Bob. But in the end it's turned to being a show in the theatre with his original ideas, which are pretty unique anyway. So, it's changed considerably, but at the same time, it's been this way for the last three years."
The Tarzan family also includes Merle Dandridge as Kala, the gorilla that adopts orphaned Tarzan; Shuler Hensley as Kerchak, leader of the gorilla tribe; Chester Gregory II as Terk, Tarzan's wise-cracking friend; Timothy Jerome as Professor Porter, Jane's father; and Donnie Keshawarz as the villianous Clayton. Daniel Manche and Alex Rutherford will alternate in the role of Young Tarzan.
Tarzan features a score by Collins, including five songs from the Disney film and nine songs written especially for the stage production. Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang has written the musical's book based on both the Disney film and the original Edgar Rice Burroughs story "Tarzan of the Apes." The creative team also includes Meryl Tankard (choreography), Pichón Baldinu (aerial design), Natasha Katz (lighting design), John Shivers (sound design), Paul Bogaev (music producer/vocal arrangements) and Doug Besterman (orchestrations).
Tarzan, according to press notes, begins as "a shipwreck leaves an infant orphaned on the West African shore. The helpless baby is taken under the protection of a gorilla tribe and becomes part of their family. When he eventually encounters his first human — Jane Porter, a curious young explorer — both their worlds are transformed forever."
Song titles include "Two Worlds," "Son of Man," "Trashin' the Camp," "Strangers Like Me" and "You'll Be in My Heart" (all from the film) plus “Who Better Than Me,” “For the First Time,” “Everything That I Am,” “Waiting for This Moment,” “No Other Way,” “I Need to Know,” “Sure as Sun Turns to Moon,” “Different” and “Like No Man I’ve Ever Seen.”
Josh Strickland has been seen as Mark and Roger in the national tour of Rent. He was a national finalist on FOX-TV's "American Idol" and appeared on "Star Search 2004."
Jenn Gambatese played both Natalie Haller and Ed in last season's All Shook Up. On Broadway she has also been seen in Footloose, Hairspray and A Year with Frog and Toad. Gambatese was also part of Off-Broadway's Reefer Madness and both the European and North American tours of Fame.
The Richard Rodgers Theatre is located in Manhattan at 226 West 46th Street.
Tickets are available by calling (212) 307-4100 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.
For more information visit www.tarzanonbroadway.com.