Tuesday, July 14, 2015

theatre review - TARZAN - Hale Centre Theatre - July 11, 2015

Curtis Lunt and Emily Giauque Evans
photo: Nick Woodward-Shaw
"While Disney had phenomenal success adapting The Lion King to the stage, their hit movie Tarzan didn't fare as well, running just a little over a year in New York. Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous story of a boy who loves and is loved by his ape family but soon becomes aware that he is different and doesn't quite fit in seems perfect fodder for a musical. While Hale Centre Theatre's fun-filled family production is a winner, with a strong cast and gorgeous production elements, the score and story are a bit slow going in places...the musical has a new book by David Henry Hwang and includes the five songs that Phil Collins wrote for the movie plus nine new ones he composed for the stage production. Shipwrecked and with his parents killed, the baby Tarzan ends up being raised by a gorilla couple. While Kerchak feels no bond with the human boy, his wife Kala immediately connects with him and brings him up into adulthood. However, when an expedition arrives in the jungle, Tarzan discovers humans and wrestles with identity issues when he realizes that he isn't a gorilla. He also discovers new strange feelings whenever he's around the English woman named Jane...Hwang's book is a little wooden at times and the added songs are ballad heavy, which combine to slow the show down and make it seem slightly padded...Even with the drawbacks of the script and score, director and choreographer Cambrian James instills plenty of energy in the Hale production, with vibrant choreography and some impressive gorilla-like movements by the ensemble and the actors playing Kala and Kerchak...As Tarzan, Curtis Lunt has the appropriate athletic physique, impressive vocals and inquisitive nature to be both physically imposing and playfully agile....Emily Giauque Evans' Jane has a heightened sense of enthusiasm, with her expressive eyes widening and glowing at the new discoveries she finds in the jungle....Lunt and Evans make a winning couple and their act two love duet "For the First Time" is expertly sung...Carrie Klofach brings a huge amount of heart to Kala, creating many poignant moments that instill the relationships Kala has with Tarzan and Kerchak with a sense of realism. Klofach meaningfully displays the deep bond, care, and connection of a loving mother in a very touching way. Ben Mason brings a fine sternness to the role of Kerchak while also being slightly ferocious, without being too scary for younger audience members, and is commanding as the leader of the tribe. Mason and Klofach make their duet "Sure as Sun Turns to Moon" heartfelt and genuine. ...Hale's production elements are excellent. The scenic design...creates an immersive experience, with the lush green flora and fauna of the jungle surrounding you on all sides. ..Mary Atkinson's new (costume) designs plus her coordination of the existing outfits is impressive. Jeff A. Davis' lighting designs are always superb and his Tarzan creations, which paint the lush and dark tones of the jungle in stunning swatches of color and shadow, are some of his best...While Hale's production can't do much to eliminate the few slow-going scenes and songs, it still manages to evoke plenty of poignancy in the high flying and fun adventure. And while Burroughs' tale and the Disney film are mainly known as a love story between Tarzan and Jane, Hale does an excellent job of capturing the strong and touching mother-son bond at the center of the story." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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