Poster for the original Broadway run.
|Book||David Henry Hwang|
|Setting||West African Jungle|
by Walt Disney Animation Studios
Tarzan is a musical based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios 1999 film of the same name. The songs are written by Phil Collins with a book by David Henry Hwang. The musical mostly follows the plot of the Disney film: Tarzan is raised by gorillas, meets Jane, a young English naturalist, and falls in love. Jane's entourage plans to kill the gorillas, and Tarzan's loyalties are tested.
The original Broadway production opened in 2006, directed and designed by Bob Crowley with choreography by Meryl Tankard. The production ran for 35 previews and 486 performances. Subsequently, the show has been staged in several other countries and by regional theatres.
The musical began previews on Broadway on March 24, 2006, and officially opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on May 10, making it the only Disney Theatrical production without an out-of-town tryout. Bob Crowley designed the sets and costumes and directed the original Broadway production; choreography was by Meryl Tankard and lighting by Natasha Katz. Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, attended the opening night party, as did Phil Collins. The production was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha Katz).
Due to poor ticket sales, the show closed on July 8, 2007 after 35 previews and 486 performances.
The musical follows the plot of the Disney film, with a few minor changes. Terk, who was a female in the film, is a male in the musical. The major character of Tantor the elephant is cut from the musical.
- Act 1
Off of the West African coast, a young English couple and their newborn son barely survive a shipwreck and land in Africa. They construct a tree house for their son before being killed by a leopard. In the African Jungle, Kerchak, the leader of a tribe of gorillas admires his new infant son with his mate, Kala ("Two Worlds"). The leopard suddenly appears and kidnaps the newborn baby gorilla. Kala goes off to find her son but finds the human boy instead and names him Tarzan. She mothers him and raises him despite Kerchak's refusal to treat Tarzan as his son ("You'll Be In My Heart").
As a young child, Tarzan finds that he cannot keep up with the tribe, while Kerchak views him as a threat. Despite this, Tarzan is befriended by the lighthearted Terk, a young gorilla who teaches him the ways of the gorillas ("Who Better Than Me"). However, Kerchak finds Tarzan constructing a spear, and assuming he intends to hurt the gorillas, he exiles him from the gorilla tribe ("No Other Way"). Kala worries for him and goes off to find him. She discovers him despairing by the water's edge ("I Need To Know"). Kala tells him that even though they look different, underneath the skin, they are just the same, reigniting Tarzan's desire to become the best ape ever.
Years pass, and Tarzan grows into a young man, athletic and resourceful ("Son of Man"), accepted by many of the gorillas as one of their own, except for Kerchak. Kala tries to convince Kerchak to accept Tarzan ("Sure As Sun Turns To Moon"). Kerchak won't change his mind until Tarzan kills the leopard that has been terrorizing the tribe. Suddenly, gunshots are heard throughout the jungle, causing the tribe to scatter, but Tarzan investigates. Deep in the jungle, Jane Porter, a young English naturalist, is overwhelmed by the thrillingly diverse jungle life ("Waiting For This Moment"). While exploring, she is attacked by a giant spider but is rescued by Tarzan. Tarzan and Jane carefully assess each other as they realize their similar qualities ("Different").
- Act 2
At the Porter expedition site, Terk and the other gorillas discover the site and all of its unique features, and do some redecorating ("Trashin' The Camp"). Jane returns to the site with Tarzan, and she is thrilled by the tribe of gorillas. Kerchak arrives and scares the gorillas off. Jane tries to convince her father, Professor Porter, and their guide, Clayton that she discovered a wild man and a tribe of apes. Kerchak forbids contact with the humans, but Tarzan and Jane grow to love each other and Jane tells her father more about the wild ape man ("Like No Man I've Ever Seen"). Tarzan soon visits the humans and becomes properly acquainted with them, especially Jane, though Clayton becomes jealous of their love.
Jane tries to teach Tarzan more about humans and human life, while Tarzan shows her his jungle world, too ("Strangers Like Me"); all the while, Jane tries to cope with her emotions ("For The First Time"). She tries to tell her father to stop Clayton's plans of killing the gorillas, but Clayton, wanting to achieve his goal, tricks Tarzan into taking the humans to the gorilla nesting grounds. Tarzan asks Terk to help him by keeping Kerchak away, and Terk agrees ("Who Better Than Me (Reprise)"). As Tarzan shows the humans his gorilla family, Kerchak arrives anyway, scattering the humans and demanding that Tarzan choose who he is. Realizing her son is torn between his loyalty to his gorilla family and his need to be with humans, Kala shows Tarzan the treehouse his parents built and he discovers all of their belongings ("Everything That I Am"). He decides to go to England with Jane and live as a human and he tells Kala his decision ("You'll Be In My Heart (Reprise)").
Tarzan approaches Jane and Porter, announcing his intention to leave the jungle and be with Jane. As the rest of the gorillas arrive to say goodbye to Tarzan, they are suddenly attacked by Clayton, who is more than determined to kill the gorillas once and for all. He shoots Kerchak when he takes a bullet meant for Tarzan, fatally wounding the gorilla leader. Tarzan fights Clayton and nearly kills him, but Porter convinces him to spare his life and that they can handle Clayton in a less violent way, and Clayton is grabbed by the man that was accompanying him and taken back to the ship to await punishment for his actions. A dying Kerchak apologizes to Tarzan for not understanding him and finally accepts him as his son. The gorilla tribe, led by Kala, convinces Tarzan that they need him to stay ("Sure As Sun Turns To Moon (Reprise)"), and Tarzan becomes the new leader of the gorillas.
At the beach, Jane and Porter are about to leave on their ship to return to England. Tarzan arrives to say goodbye to them, until Jane realizes that she loves Tarzan and, with Porter's blessing, decides to stay with him in the jungle. Tarzan and Jane kiss and swing off towards their new home, planning to spend the rest of their lives together ("Two Worlds (Reprise)").
Original cast recording
The Broadway cast album, entitled Tarzan: The Broadway Musical - Original Broadway Cast Recording, was released on June 27, 2006, produced by Mark Mancina. Allmusic explains: "Elton John, who composed the music for the songs in the movie version of The Lion King (with lyrics by stage veteran Tim Rice), left others to expand the score for Broadway, while Phil Collins, who wrote music and lyrics for the five songs in the 1999 Tarzan movie, wrote an additional nine for the Broadway show". Phil Collins sings a bonus track "Everything That I Am" at the end of the album. The album includes "all four of the 'old' Tarzan songs (Two Worlds, You'll Be In My Heart, Son Of Man and Strangers Like Me)". The album entered the Billboard Cast Album chart at No. 3.
Allmusic gave the album a rating of 3 out of 5 stars, stating: "Collins seems to understand that theater lyrics, perhaps even more than pop-song lyrics, need to be concise to get dramatic points across quickly and clearly. What he doesn't seem to realize is that that doesn't mean they should be little more than a string of platitudes, clichés, and contemporary slang. ... It's a shame; his words are as bad as his music is good". The review notes that much of the cast perform the songs as Adult Contemporary numbers as opposed to Broadway songs, and concludes by saying that "as a musical work Tarzan represents a lost opportunity to make a good pop musical." Genesis.com notes that rather than being a strict Collins album, "it is a concept album with music that has to work within the parameters of a Broadway musical".
Differences from the film
- The character of Tantor the elephant is not in the musical.
- Instead of scaring the elephants off to make Kerchak angry, Tarzan fashions a spear, making Kerchak think he intends to hurt the gorillas.
- Terk is male in the musical.
- Jane is attacked by a giant spider, rather than being chased by baboons, before being rescued by Tarzan.
- Clayton seems to have more of a romantic attraction for Jane, and is American rather than British.
- Clayton does not bring men from the ship to trap the gorillas.
- Tarzan lets Clayton go, rather than letting him fall and hang to his death.
Tarzan opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on May 10, 2006, and closed on July 8, 2007 after 486 performances. Directed by Bob Crowley, the choreography was by Meryl Tankard, Aerial Design by Pichón Baldinu, sets and costumes were by Crowley, and lighting was by Natasha Katz.
Original Broadway Cast
- Josh Strickland as Tarzan
- Jennifer Gambatese as Jane
- Shuler Hensley as Kerchak
- Merle Dandridge as Kala
- Chester Gregory II as Terk
- Tim Jerome as Professor Porter
- Donnie Keshawarz as Clayton
- Daniel Manche / Alex Rutherford as Young Tarzan
Broadway Cast replacement history
- Dylan Riley Snyder replaced Daniel Manche as first alternate Young Tarzan on September 15, 2006.
- Rob Evan replaced Shuler Hensley as Kerchak on March 28, 2007.
- J. Bradley Bowers was cast as Young Tarzan in March, 2007 to replace Alex Rutherford. However, it was later announced that the show would close on July 8, 2007, so Bowers, Rutherford, and Snyder alternated in the role of Young Tarzan for the remainder of the show.
Netherlands (2007–2009): The first international production of the show opened on April 15, 2007 at the Fortis Circustheater in Scheveningen, Netherlands and was produced by Disney and Joop van den Ende Theaterproducties/Stage Entertainment. Phil Collins was present at the opening night. The original cast featured Ron Link as Tarzan (winner of the show "Wie Wordt Tarzan?") and Chantal Janzen as Jane. On May 24, 2009 the show closed to make way for the Dutch production of Mary Poppins.
Sweden (2008–2009): The second international production, and the first independent production (not to be produced by Disney) opened in Kristianstad, Sweden, on February 16, 2008, and closed in 2009.
Germany (2008–2018): The third international production opened in Hamburg, Germany, at the Neue Flora Theater on October 19, 2008 and was produced by Disney and Stage Entertainment. It originally starred Anton Zetterholm and Elisabeth Hübert, who won the roles of Tarzan and Jane on the German casting show Ich Tarzan, Du Jane. The Hamburg production ran for five years and closed in 2013. A production was staged in Stuttgart at the Stage Apollo Theater in 2013. After closing in Stuttgart, the musical opened in 2016 in Oberhausen where it is still playing in 2018. In 2017 Josh Strickland who played Tarzan in the original broadway run, reprised his role as Tarzan in the Oberhausen production. Strickland reprised his role as Tarzan from May to July 2017, he was then replaced by Anton Zetterholm who played Tarzan in the Hamburg production. In 2018 the musical celebrated 10 years of production in Germany.  In 2018 for the third time in a row, the musical was voted most popular long run musical in the German Language by musical1 readers. A German recording of the musical performed by the Hamburg cast was released in 2008. .
Philippines (2013): A Philippine production of the show, licensed by Viva Atlantic Theatricals, ran from June 14-July 7, 2013 at the Meralco Theater in Manila. It starred Dan Domenech as Tarzan and Rachelle Ann Go as Jane.
U.S. regional productions
Utah (2010): The Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah, presented the regional premiere from June 7-October 15, 2010, playing three shows a week. The theatre was the first equity theatre to produce the musical after the Broadway production. The show starred James Royce Edwards as Tarzan and Summer Broyhill as Jane.
St. Louis (2014): The Muny of St. Louis, Missouri presented the show from June 25, 2014 through July 2, 2014. Nicholas Rodriguez starred in the title role with Kate Rockwell as Jane. Other cast members included Quentin Earl Darrington as Kerchak, Katie Thompson as Kala, Gregory Haney as Terk, Ken Page as Porter, Michael James Reed as Clayton, Spencer Jones as Young Tarzan and Nathaniel Mahone as Young Terk.
The show received mixed reviews. A review of the North Show Music Theatre production said the show took "a serious look at the deepest human emotions, setting its story to Collins’ vibrant score", and added that "this is a show that holds you and doesn’t let go." The New York Times described Tarzan as "insistently kinetic ... fidgety and attention-deficient", noting that tough "momentous events occur regularly ... any tension or excitement is routinely sabotaged by overkill and diffuseness". It notes that despite "much money ... and international research" being invested into the show, "we now have conclusive evidence that the Disneyfied Tarzan does indeed flatten perversely when translated from two dimensions into three." Kerry Lengel of The Republic said "the heart of Tarzan's' darkness is Phil Collins' bland melodies and generic lyrics, which offer such character insights as, 'My heart is beating faster, I must know more about her. ... She makes me feel so alive'. Even for a kiddie musical, that's a pretty weak effort."
Awards and nominations
|John Kraaijkamp Musical Awards (Netherlands production)|
|Beste grote musical (Best Full-Length Musical)||Won in 2008|
|Beste vrouwelijke hoofdrol in een grote musical (Best Female Lead in a Full-Length Musical) (Chantal Janzen as Jane)||Nominated|
|Beste Mannelijke Bijrol in een Grote Musical (Best Supporting Actor in a Full-Length Musical) (Clayton Peroti as Terk)||Won in 2007|
|Beste Creatieve Prestatie (Best Creative Achievement) (Sergio Trujillo)||Nominated|
|Beste Inhoudelijke Prestatie (Best Content) (Martine Bijl, translator)||Nominated|
|Beste Inhoudelijke Prestatie (Best Content) (Phil Collins)||Nominated|
|Beste Ontwerper (Best Designer) (Pichón Baldinu)||Nominated|
|Beste Ontwerper (Best Designer) (Bob Crowley)||Nominated|
|Nashuatec Musical Award voor Aanstormend Talent (Musical Award for Breakthrough Talent) (Ron Link as Tarzan)||Won in 2007|
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