Tarzan the musical



I saw Tarzan last night and thought I'd offer up some thoughts.

I think the show is pretty much sold out through it's opening. You can get tickets if you're willing to line up at 5pm. I would say that around 20 people got in through the cancellation line. If you're a student, they sell student tickets for like $20 a pair.

The Richard Rodgers Theatre is really nicely banked which affords many good views. Unfortunately, some of Tarzan is staged above the mezzanine. So if you are sitting in the rear orchestra, you might miss some of what occurs higher up on the stage or above the mezzanine. (ie. Tarzan's entrance) I believe that Ticketmaster is selling all of the rear orchestra seats as "partially obstructed".

The show starts off very powerfully. Through double scrims, you see Tarzan's parents in the hold of the ship. After the implied shipwreck, they're shown floating underwater and the effect is extremely well-done. When the scrims rise, we see them lying on the beach...suspended on the rear wall of the stage. It's an incredible effect. By this point, I thought the show was going to be fantastic.

Unfortunately, the rest of the staging (particularly the jungle) is far less inspired that the beginning. There is a tremendous amount of aerial work on cables and bungees. Because of this, the jungle set is VERY sparse. I suspect so that it wouldn't interfere with the bungees. It's like the play takes place inside a giant (square!) grass skirt. There is no attempt made to replicate the twisting and sinewy vines from the movie. And we stay in this square "grass skirt" treeless jungle for most of the play. If there is one BIG failing in the scenery it's this. (Not unlike the poor scenery for Jolly Holiday!)

The cast was really wonderful. The young Tarzan was so refreshingly natural and just the right mixture of gangly awkwardness. Terk has been reworked into a male teenage-ish outsider. Tantor has been eliminated from the show. Kerchak is more sympathetic in the show. Tarzan was an American Idol cast off, so he's got the voice if not the muscles. Clayton was really the weakest link in the cast...and probably the show itself. Rather than the big burly hunter of the film, he's kind of lanky and has a southern accent. He's not quite evil...more like an annoying redneck.

The music was ok. There were one or two numbers which were well-done, (The duet with Kala and Kerchak) but most of it has that same Phil Collins blandness to it. It's hard to remember any of the new songs. Even the catchy familiar songs "Son of Man" and "Stranger Like Me" don't seem like they're milked for all their energy/potential. One disappointing thing about "Son of Man" is that they revert to showing animation on a scrim. It seemed like a cheap solution for translating something from film to stage. The animation pretty much echos the movie in the development of Tarzan from boy to man with primitive shadow puppet-esque animation. Strangely enough, after they show Tarzan as a man in shadow form, they raise the scrims only to show him on stage as the boy. He scampers off while the adult Tarzan swings in over the audience. (Bit awkward seeing BOTH Tarzans on stage at the same time.)

I was looking forward to "Trashin the Camp" which opens the second act, thinking that they'd expand it into a huge Stomp-like number with percussion, etc. Sadly, it was just performed as the monkeys dismantle a tent set. Just another missed opportunity.

I think Tarzan was a strange choice to translate to stage. It was essentially an adventure movie and adventure is hard to pull off on stage. Phil Collin's songs also are GREAT as background music...but when they take center stage, they kind of all meld together into an auditory gelatinous goo. I think Menken translates to stage far better.

Even the curtain call was a missed opportunity. How would YOU have Tarzan make his final entrance?!!! If you said he just runs in from the corner of the stage, you think like Disney Theatrical. Why not have him swing over the audience again with a huge Tarzan yell?!!!

I think this play is just another musical that fails to expand the experience beyond what you'd see in a theme park for free. The audience, by the way, seemed to LOVE it. Those of you who know me, know how picky I am, so don't be deterred from seeing it if you're curious. It's fun...the aerial work is interesting...you know the story....you know some of the music...just don't expect it to redefine the American theatre experience for you.
You hit the nail on the head with your review,,, I thought the show was horrible,,,, And from the reviews it doesnt look like Tarzan will be swinging around broadway for very long. All I can say is the show is about a swinging man in the jungle and In the Broadway version of the jungle he only swings onto the stage three times in the entire production,,,, Oh well Lets see what they do with the Little Mermaid....
Just a side note: Broadway locals are calling it the "BIG GREEN MONSTER" - because the set is 99% all green. And you know... Green is my favorite colour, but after seeing the show... I have second thoughts now about that colour....

I agree that the first 20 minutes of the show is great, and that the rest of the show doesn't stay up to that level.

If you're going to NYC to see a show, I'd say it would be okay to bypass Tarzan AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE DROWSY CHAPERONE!!!! I had a GREAT time watching that show...