Tarzan Swings On Broadway
Tarzan, the new Walt Disney Co.’s attraction has swung into the Richard Rogers Theatre for a long run. The musical version of the Disney animated film has been beautifully and imaginatively staged by Bob Crowley. While not as lavish as “The Lion King,” it manages to enchant and entertain its target family audience.
The opening dazzles, with images that elicit oohs and aahs: a series of effects simulating a storm and shipwreck, followed by an underwater sequence in which onstage actors are seen swimming furiously. Then the action shifts to a beach, which the audience seems to be looking at through an overhead camera.
Surely, this is the most cinematic Broadway stage show—images permeate the production and surround-sound envelopes the audience. Of course, the flying apes and Tarzan are what the audience yearns for and they aren’t disappointed. Thanks to the considerable expertise of aerial designer Pichón Baldinu of “De La Guarda,” they fly through the trees and above the audience’s heads in heart-stopping daredevil fashion, choreographed by Meryl Tankard and accompanied by Phil Collins’ score.
The book by David Henry Hwang sticks faithfully to the classic story of a boy raised by apes who undergoes an identity crisis after meeting a beautiful human girl, Jane, here played by the charming Jenn Gambatese. As Tarzan, Josh Strickland, a former “American Idol” finalist, does fine by his part, and is a real hunk to delight the teenage girls who were there in numbers the night I saw the show. The excellent Chester Gregory II sings, dances (sometimes hanging upside down) as Tarzan’s buddy, Terk. The booming Shuler Hensley as Kerchak, the apes leader, and Meryl Dandridge, as Tarzan’s loving Simian mother are excellent.
Notable in the first act are Tarzan’s battles with a ferocious leopard and a giant spider. The second act is devoted to Tarzan and Jane’s story has some charming moments such as his language lesson. Tim Jerome, provokes laughter and giggles as Jane’s ditzy professor dad. If you’re looking to entertain the youngsters—treat them to Tarzan. ($38.75-$76.25)#