Setting helps 'Tarzan' succeed
Vegas Review-Journal ~ Oct. 17, 2010
Tarzan" found a home in St. George, Utah. And that iconic hero swinging
through the Tuacahn Amphitheatre yells a reminder to a glitzier city a
couple of hours down the highway. Saturday was to be the last night of
a real blockbuster for the 1,800-seater: "The biggest-grossing show in
our (15-year) history," says director Scott Anderson, besting even "Les
Miserables." . . . The show was by most testimony better than the Broadway
version. The physical production came to life in a way that wasn't possible
in Broadway's historic Richard Rodgers Theatre.
"(Broadway) was just a green box. It didn't look like a forest. It didn't
look like anything," says Cees de Kok, the Las Vegan who staged the aerial
choreography for the Utah version. "Tarzan" was the show Tuacahn was built
for. It just had to wait 15 years to show off the "lake" and waterfall
installed for a best-forgotten musical history of Utah.
De Kok and his wife, Cathy, commuted up and down I-15 from his "night
job" in the Stratosphere's "Bite." Working with apparatus installed by
Las Vegas-based Flying By Foy, he spent more than a month teaching the
cast to fly. It all paid off with Tarzan swooping down for his first look
at Jane and plucking a ribbon from her hair. Not onstage, but in the aisle
of the audience."Tarzan" proves you don't have to get it right the first
time. But why wait? . . . More>>>
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tuachan Summer Season
Tarzan and Cats at the Tuachan Amphitheatre
~ July 28, 2010
Each summer The Tuachan Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts puts on
a “Broadway in the Desert Series” which this year includes the first production
of Disney’s Tarzan since it played on Broadway. In this my first
visit to Tuachan I saw Tarzan and Cats and had a terrific
Tuachan Amphitheatre is located at the mouth of Padre Canyon below the
1500-foot towering red rocks of Ivies Utah that is adjacent to Snow Canyon
State Park. This theatre complex is part of a larger facility that encompasses
a school for the performing arts, a smaller 330-seat theatre, a dance studio,
a black-box theatre space, a recital hall and the appropriate costume and
set building facilities. The staff is committed to the goal of providing
family entertainment while also promoting the exposure of high school students
to the world of musical theatre. The Amphitheatre was originally built
to house the outdoor musical drama Utah, which celebrated the founding
of the state of Utah. Overt time the emphasis has shifted to the Broadway
Tuachan was granted the rights to the Disney musical Tarzan that had
recently played in New York. Previously they had been the first regional
theatre to present Les Miserables. Disney's trust in these producers is
totally justified because the productions at Tuachan are fully professional
and feature some first-rate talent.
Take the case of Tarzan. The theatre is outfitted with “Flying by Foy’
and the production draws on the expertise of some Vegas professional circus
artists to teach the cast the art of aerial flight and action. Most of
Tarzan takes place in the air and Tarzan’s entrance from out of the rocks
is a sight to behold — pure magic. . . . The cast is full of good singers
and talented dancers. Scott S. Anderson provides the fine direction.
Tuachan is only a short one-hour drive from Las Vegas and 1-½
hours from Cedar City and its famous Shakespearean Festival. By all means,
visit this magnificent location and see some exciting work. I look forward
to a return visit. Tarzan, Cats, and soon Crazy for You, will be playing
in rep until mid October. More>>>
Tuacahn celebrates 15th anniversary with impressive summer season
KSL.com ~ July
IVINS -- A major player in Utah's performing arts community is celebrating
its 15th anniversary with a blockbuster summer. "I have performed
on Broadway stages and around the world, but there is nothing like this
place." - Evan D'Angeles, performerSurrounded by Utah's famous red rock,
musical theater under the stars once again draws a crowd. Tuacahn Amphitheater
is having the most successful season in its history.
This summer's offerings include the regional premier of Disney's "Tarzan."
"He's Tarzan; he's pretty much like a Disney superhero. It's the coolest
part in the world," says James Royce Edwards, who plays Tarzan in the Tuacahn
production. "Tarzan is breaking all of our box office records," says Scott
S. Anderson, Tuacahn's artistic director. "I have never seen a show sell
like this. We are packing in almost 2,000 people a night."
Many cast members say they have fallen in love with Utah. "It's a beautiful
venue here at Tuacahn," says performer Evan D'Angeles. "I have performed
on Broadway stages and around the world, but there is nothing like this
From 'Tarzan' to 'Cats' — Musicals step out at Tuacahn's red rock
News ~ June 5, 2010
It's a jungle out there — well, southern Utah, to be exact.
"We're trying to convert the desert into a jungle," said Scott Anderson,
artistic director of Tuacahn Amphitheatre, who talked excitedly about the
upcoming summer season. We have the regional premiere of Disney's 'Tarzan.'?"
Based on the 1999 animated Disney movie, the stage version, featuring
the music of Phil Collins, opened on Broadway
in 2006 but closed a year later. "What people don't realize is that
it was one of the biggest musicals ever mounted on Broadway," Anderson
said. "It was $20 million, and it was already in the black before it opened,
the presale was so large. When it opened on Holland,
it beat out 'Lion King' and 'Les Miz,' and it's doing the same in Germany
right now. It's had quite a post-Broadway life."
Tuacahn's » Tarzan and the flying apes
Tribune ~ June 16, 2010
From above the turned-into-a-jungle stage, Tarzan swings into the scene
on a zip line, making a grand entrance, like a super hero. Or maybe a rock
star. It's a specific and memorable moment, as the audience is first introduced
to the grown-up version of the musical's title character, played by James
Royce Edwards. His sculpted body and disheveled long hair are enhanced
by his costume of a simple loin cloth. This dramatic moment that relies
on the technical fireworks of a flying rig reveals everything about Tuacahn
Amphitheater's staging of Disney's "Tarzan," the first regional production
of the musical since it closed on Broadway
Director Scott Anderson, Tuacahn's artistic director, has created a
visually rich, spectacle-laden show, telling the story of the popular 1999
Disney film, adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic tale. Anderson's
staging makes creative use of both the theater's outdoor space, as well
as its challenges. For example, that entrance of Tarzan's, while he's not
technically swinging in on a tree vines, yet flying cords offer audiences
the visual effect of jungle lines. Aerial choreographers Cees De Kok and
Cathy Perquin have helped actors in embodying primates, conveying physical
ease while suspended high in the air.
Another example of technical skill comes at the end of Act I, when Jane
Porter (Summer Broyhill) discovers the flora and fauna of the jungle. It's
a colorful scene, filled with vibrant human-sized flowers, and insects
that come alive in an aerial ballet.
The production's flying heavy, and a drawback to all that aerial stagecraft
is it slows down the action. Tuachan's large stage requires the actors
to cover a lot of airspace, and all that jungle swinging starts to feel
predictable and less of a novelty as the show progresses. While the high-energy
choreography incorporates acrobatics and other ape-like movements, yet
several of the numbers were marred by the lack of synchronization.
Technical effects aside, Talon G. Ackerman shines as the young Tarzan.
The boy actor is perfectly cast as an orphan rescued by she-ape Kala (Cessalee
Stovall) after his parents' are shipwrecked and killed by a leopard. Ackerman
has a particular wild beauty, and conveys the innocence of a young creature
trying to learn everything from his elders. His small body contorts to
assimilate the movements of the apes.
He and Stovall gracefully convey the chemistry between a mother and
son, especially when she throws him on her back as a mother gorilla might
do with one of her own. Stovall also has the vocal chops to enchant the
audience, such as in the popular "You'll be in my Heart."
As for grown Tarzan, he has charm and appeal as a wild man in his simian
behavior. But the actor appears like he just walked out of a gym, his body
too buff and polished to be a convincing creature of the jungle. He could
use a little dirt. Better at embodying his animal side is Sam Zeller's
Kerchak, the tribe's ape leader, whose large body is enhanced by his ape
costume. Equally outstanding is Evan D'Angeles as Terk, the blue Mohawk-wearing
gorilla, who physically appears at ease on stage and in all his interactions,
which makes him a likeable, watchable character.
This is a show that rests on its technical effects rather than emotion,
while allows the costumes and pop songs of the score to take center stage.
That's why the scenes of subtle, instinctive acting between Kala, the mother
gorilla, and young Tarzan, her adopted gorilla boy, are such standouts.
Going Ape for Tarzan at Tuacahn!
Theatre Bloggers ~ June 16, 2010
IVINS — I have been looking forward to seeing Tarzan for so long!
In part, because Phil Collins has been my all-time favorite, award-winning,
singer / song-writer / drummer . . . and more than a few Tarzan soundtracks
have been worn out in our home. Also, Tuacahn is currently the only
regional theater licensed in the U.S. to produce Tarzan. In fact,
this production is Tarzan‘s post-Broadway regional theater debut.
To start the evening—and my first experience reviewing for UTBA—I arrived
early to anxiously anticipate the gates opening to avail my first glimpse
of the stage as I was sure the jungle would begin to come to life in this
desert setting even before it started. To my dismay, the stage was
bare and plain. Had I not known what I was seeing, (and with the
exception of all the Tarzan memorabilia for sale at the patio kiosks),
I would have never guessed which production I was about to see.
After the typical Tuacahn welcome and announcements, the stage lighting
starts to dance and flash, the jungle drumming begins, and my heart and
adrenalin quickly sync to the beat! Now I’m on board and completely engrossed!
There is a ship mast, almost unnoticeable in the far back hills, which
is set in front of the breath-taking Tuacahn red rock mountain backdrop.
It begins to sway and then sinks as the raging water floods the stage (an
effect Tuacahn is famous for). A shipwrecked mother, father and baby
float across the stage and finally lodge on the West African shore as the
stage fills with jungle from every angle. The music and drums intensify!
Gorillas begin their entrance from cables, bungee cords, and tree tops.
They descend from above and dangle only feet above audience members as
they twirl and swing and mimic all the primate gestures we watch so often
at monkey exhibits! (Kudos to the costumer & choreographer, as
I almost forgot these were humans!) A few wild cats (Leopards) prowl
the stage on all fours with their glowing eyes. I soon realized that
the leopards are an important piece of the storyline—as it’s at their jaws
that the parents meet their fate—which leaves the infant abandoned in a
luggage chest. He is soon to be discovered by his new primate mother
Kala (Cessalee Stovall), who has recently lost her gorilla baby.
Kala takes the infant under her protection and brings him into the gorilla
tribe and names him Tarzan. It’s this “adopted bond” between a mother
and her son that tightens the audience’s heart strings throughout the rest
of the story. It’s this same love and bond that is sure to bring
tears before the finale.
Young Tarzan (Talon Ackerman) is amazing and becomes my focal point
every time he is on stage. He has a beautiful young voice,
he can certainly dance, and he does acrobatics like no novice. He
is also not afraid of some high flying and swift aerials! (Ackerman
will be leaving his Tuacahn family on July 13th to play the role of Michael
Banks in the first National Tour of Disney’s Mary Poppins, upon which Payton
Kemp will take his place as the young Tarzan.)
One of my favorite scenes is when Young Tarzan is swinging high above
the stage from a cable and then flies stage right and exits into a cave
in exact syncopation with Older Tarzan who is descending from a high cable
from the distant red rock to make his “grown-up entrance”. The audience
whispers “ooh’s and ah’s” in concert—and I experience instantaneous chills!
Older Tarzan (James Royce Edwards) and his “partner-in-crime” and the clown
of the show primate buddy Terk (Evan D’Angeles) share many learning / teaching
/ bonding moments on stage as they forage the jungle together and often
disobey Kerchak (Sam Zeller), Tarzan’s adopted father and Ape tribe leader.
Eventually, Tarzan encounters his first human – Jane Porter (Summer Broyhill),
a curious young explorer – and both of their worlds transform forever.
Jane attempts to teach Tarzan “human words” as Tarzan smells, touches,
strokes and invades personal space looking for bugs in Jane’s beautiful
long locks. Jane shows him a slide-show of civilized life back home and
Tarzan swings her from trees and takes her home to introduce her to his
ape mother. (Jane notices the mother-son bond and is envious because
she did not have the privilege of a mother in her life.)
The time eventually comes for the ultimate decision to be made: Will
Jane stay or will Tarzan go? It’s a painful choice and I found myself wondering
what I would do: stay with the family who raised and loved me or go back
to “my kind” and follow the love of my life? Tarzan makes his initial
decision and I am upset! I should learn to be patient (you would
think I didn’t already know the ending)! Jane must have heard my
thoughts and she finally makes the right choice. As Tarzan cradles
Jane in his strong arms, they ascend to the back of the upper deck to live
happily ever after. Truth? This is where I got bugged that
Jane was in her “civilized” dress! I whisper to the woman next to
me that I’m disappointed because I feel she NEEDED to come out in her “jungle
dress” so we can have confidence that she truly “fit in” with the gorilla
Again, patience is not my virtue! Don’t fret. Jane soon
swings from stage right in her cute jungle ensemble and Tarzan from stage
left with his 6-pack and they hang and flip in the middle “as gorillas
do” before dropping to the stage for their final bows.
The greatest challenge in this production was the “flying”! Scott
Anderson (Director) has often referred to Tarzan as Peter Pan on steroids.
After making some additions to their facility for Peter Pan in 2006 and
with the engineering talents of Flying by Foy, aerial choreography by Cees
de Kok and Cathy Perquin and stage choreography by Mic Thompson, Tuacahn
has been able to overcome this difficulty in a thrilling way. In fact,
I can only recall one scene where flying did not occur! It was so
Awesome, awesome performance! Children and old alike will love
Tarzan! If you live in Salt Lake, this show is worth the trip! Performances
are sold out for June so call soon to book for July – October 15th.
Tarzan opened June 7th and plays through October 15th on Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays at the Tuacahn Amphitheater in Ivins, Utah.
Show times are as follows: June – August 8:30 PM, September 8:00 PM and
October 7:30 PM. Tickets are $17-56. For more information,