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Volume 1677

Opening Night May 10, 2006
Review Highlights

Richard Rodgers Theatre Marquis

Tarzan's Entrance
Photo ©2006 Joan Marcus
Tarzan & Jane 
'Tarzan' will have you yelling
USA Today ~ May 10, 2006 ~ By Elysa Gardner
In the new stage adaptation of Disney's animated film Tarzan (* * * out of four), agile young performers leap, flip and careen through stunts so relentlessly that you could get back pains just watching. Not infrequently, they accomplish these tasks while suspended from wires, adding to their difficulty.  From Bob Crowley's lush, fanciful scenic and costume design to its intricate uses of animation and projected images, Tarzan offers plenty of the flash considered catnip for tourists and casual fans.

Here, though, it's not empty flash. . . . Tarzan has a score by a British pop star, Phil Collins. Most songs are new and blend mildly agreeable melodies and Afrocentric rhythms with the odd nod to Gilbert and Sullivan. But it's David Henry Hwang's sprightly libretto that makes this Tarzan fly. Hwang . . . contributes a script with a light but full heart, one that aims to amuse and enlighten children without patronizing them, or us. . . .

But Tarzan ultimately promotes a broader sense of love and understanding, the kind that binds families together and unites people — and other primates, in this case — who would seem to have little in common. The apes who take Tarzan in are winningly played by the warm-voiced Merle Dandridge and Shuler Hensley. . . . In the title role, Josh Strickland gives an energetic and no doubt exhausting performance, and manages a goofy chemistry with Jenn Gambatese's veddy British Jane. . . . More>>>

© 2006 USA Today

Spectacular ‘Tarzan’ opens on Broadway
Philadelphia Inquirer ~ May 11, 2006 ~ By Howard Shapiro
Photo ©2006 Heinz KluetmeierNEW YORK - Tarzan swings.  From its first gorgeous scenes, played without dialogue, the cast comes at you and over you, and after the curtain calls, you feel you should exit by rope. The blockbuster is said to cost upward of $20 million . . . The show is an eye-popping treat of lighting, streamers and fabrics, in which Bob Crowley's scenery is as fluid as the actors who wear his fanciful costumes and move to his frisky direction. Natasha Katz's magical, inspired lighting design carries the show as much as the formulaic paint-by-numbers plot - which is highly entertaining, if not gripping. . . . Through much of Act 1, Tarzan seems to have only a passing interest in plot and a consuming interest in dazzling spectacle. In walks Jane, and with her, a narrative arc that gets our attention. . . . Plot, shmot - my overall feeling about Tarzan is that it's at its best when the apes are artfully wrecking a campsite, or when Tarzan is bounding across and above the stage, trying to find his way in life, in any one of Phil Collins' playful, generally short songs. . . . Changes in Tarzan's scenery, which frequently occur midsentence, unfold with a beauty that makes your mouth drop; they are part of the show's neat collection of special effects. Some people will inevitably call the shimmering stars, massive fluttering fabrics, and huge strutting fauna downright corny. I call them master stagecraft.

ERB bio by Bill HillmanThe story comes to us from the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale, then through the Disney animated movie. The stage show establishes itself in a wondrously theatrical storm at sea that leaves a baby and his parents stranded in Africa - high on the back wall of the stage. They make their way to the stage itself, where the parents are devoured in a scary and quick scene by the region's main predator, a leopard. A female ape (the captivating Merle Dandridge) saves the crying baby, takes him back to the extended family of apes, and names him Tarzan - much to the dismay of her ape-man, Kerchak (Shuler Hensley, with meticulous ape moves).

The two apes are humanized in the trademark Disney way. ("Look, termites!" she says, having told him his grooming needs work and pulling one from his hair. "You eat 'em," he replies. "I'm not hungry.") Also humanized, and pretty funny, is the character of Terk, Tarzan's young ape buddy (a rockin' Chester Gregory II, who frequently steals the show). Then comes Jane (sweet Jenn Gambatese), with her professor dad and a party of explorers, and it's girl meets ape-boy, who finds the gorilla his dreams and all that. The show becomes a tug-of-gun between the girl and the ape-hunting team leader, and, of course, our human who is not quite sure what species he belongs to, even after he finds the power of having five fingers.

The young Tarzan . . .  is winningly played by a youngster named Alex Rutherford, who alternates the part with Daniel Manche. In a lovely piece of staging, Tarzan suddenly becomes a young adult, in the form of Josh Strickland . . . He's got a great loinclothed build, which suits his role as the most constantly undressed actor on Broadway. Strickland also flashes a million-dollar smile, is as nimble as the youngster who heretofore played Tarzan - and is blessed with a great voice and a stage presence that immediately arrest the audience.

Much of Act 2 rests on the maelstrom swarming around Tarzan, and Strickland's performance makes the character worthy of all the attention. . . .. Strickland sends out all the perfect signals for a Disney Tarzan . . . He's a Tarzan you would want your kids to ape, in a production that says: It's a jungle out there, but while you're in here, at least be entertained. More>>>

© 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
ERB Bio © 2006 Bill Hillman and ERB, Inc.

Hail Tarzan! It's a Swinging Celebration for Disney's New Musical ~ May 10, 2006
Disney knows how to throw a great party, and the opening night bash for Tarzan was no exception. After a rousing performance on May 10, the cast, crew, and a glittering array of guests gathered at the Marriott Marquis Hotel to celebrate the season's final Broadway show. (In honor of Tarzan's jungle setting, many revelers chose to wear green.) grabbed a loincloth and joined the fun.

At the opening, Danton Burroughs, grandson of Tarzan's original author Edgar Rice Burroughs with a first edition copy of the novel.
69 Photos for by Bruce Glikas
More photos
ABC Interview with Tarzan and Jane: VIDEO
ABC News Nightline: Lord of the Apes: VIDEO

ABC News: Tarzan Through The Years: A Photo Essay
Disney's "Tarzan" swings on to Broadway with a budget estimated between $15 million and $20 million. The legendary ape-man is a uniquely American myth that was first novelized in 1914 by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It has since been re-created in movies, TV shows, and animated cartoons. The Broadway version stars Josh Strickland as Tarzan and Jenn Gambatese as Jane. More>>>
Hollywood Reporter: "Tarzan": A Gorgeous and Imaginative Production.

Frank Scheck writes that "This musical version of the animated film is a gorgeous and imaginative production, with a series of dazzling stage images that have a significant 'wow' effect. It's the flying apes and title character that people have come to see, and the show doesn't disappoint. Phil Collins' music includes some terrific songs. . . . The booming-voiced Shuler Hensley delivers a powerful turn as the ape leader Kerchak, Merle Dandridge is very moving as Tarzan's loving simian mother, and Chester Gregory II sings and dances superbly-not to mention upside down-as his best friend Terk." More>>>
Associated Press: Disney brings 'Tarzan' to Broadway

Michael Kuchwara writes that while the elaborate production is visually stunning, the show, directed and designed by Bob Crowley, is emotionally and musically lightweight - almost as skimpy as Tarzan's leather loincloth."  Josh Strickland, Broadway's Tarzan, is bland, boyish and bulk-free - the Ape Man by way of Abercrombie & Fitch. The biggest thing about him is his voice. It's a voice perfectly suited to the pop songs of Phil Collins. . . In one of the musical's most accomplished bits of stagecraft, a huge butterfly swings and soars over the audience. With a musical as unfortunately earthbound as Tarzan, you have to appreciate every high-flying moment you can get. More>>>
Variety: "Tarzan" should be seeing green at the box office for some time to come.

David Rooney writes that "The pop score is tuneful, the percussive rhythms exciting. . . . Playwright David Henry Hwang has shaped a show that's kid-friendly but has sufficient warm sentimentality to move adults. . . . Broadway newcomer Meryl Tankard's choreography is impressive. Crowley coaxes disarming work from lean, athletic Josh Strickland, who conveys the innocence of a pure soul untainted by the savagery of civilized society. . . . Jenn Gambatese has an expansive personality and a fine singing voice. . . . Shuler Hensley brings gravitas and a powerful baritone to Kerchak, while Merle Dandridge's lovely Kala is a deeply sympathetic figure. During her tender reprise with Tarzan of Collins' Oscar-winning ballad 'You'll Be in My Heart,' only hardened cynics' tear ducts will stay dry. . . . Chester Gregory II shows a mighty talent for musical comedy. . . . To the credit of the creative team and Disney Theatrical chief Thomas Schumacher, the show has come together to deliver eye-popping spectacle and unexpected emotional involvement. More>>>
BBC News: Tarzan swings onto New York stage

Brian Barron writes: Big claims are being made for this stage version of Tarzan, the jungle warrior who will be celebrating his centenary just a few years from now. . . . The show comes over as a mix of circus, pantomime and musical. The singing standards are high and the voices clear, in part thanks to the tiny microphones the performers wear. . . . This being a premiere, most of Thursday's audience emerged with positive comments. "Tarzan is riding high over the Big Apple," said one lady. A woman in her 20s described it as a great show with excellent special effects. More>>>
Sydney Morning Herald: Me Tarzan, you lady who make me swing

Meryl Tankard speaks to Sharon Verghis on the eve of the choreographer's Broadway debut. Meryl Tankard has been chatting about her latest project, Disney's new musical staging of Tarzan, for several minutes before she notices the huge, newly minted marquee banner unfurled down the side of a building across the road from where we sit in a room perched above Broadway. It's amazing it didn't hit her in the eye the minute she sat down. The banner is monstrously big, shockingly lime-green. It is emblazoned with that unmistakable man-in-loincloth-swinging-from-vine silhouette, and must be at least nine metres high - a beast of a thing that leaps out, pounding its chest, from the crazy electronic wallpaper that plasters every surface of Times Square. More>>>
Mid-Michigan native has swinging role in 'Tarzan'

Saginaw News ~ May 20, 2006
While he's not cast in the title role of "Tarzan, The Broadway Musical," 1996 Cass City High School graduate Whitney Osentoski plans to get in plenty of swinging-in-the-trees time anyway. . . . "I was hired as a 'swing' member of the cast, which means I cover for six male members of the ensemble when they are unable to perform," says Osentoski of the Disney Theatrical Productions show that opened May 10 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway.

"I have to know the entire show, and I am the replacement for actors who portray humans, a gorilla, a fern, a butterfly. All sorts of things where I am hanging in the air and bungee-jumping, specialty stuff. Singing and dancing too. Tarzan' got mixed reviews from the critics, but the audiences are loving it," says Osentoski, who received tickets to attend opening night and an invitation to the opening night party for the cast. "There is such an advance sale on this show, I don't fear it will close because of the reviews. . . . It's just we all wanted critical validation for what we've been working on for five months, sometimes up to 12 hours a day with rehearsals and previews. I don't think they (the critics) realize what it takes to get some of the movements. I know I'm proud of the show." More>>>

Where Jane Goes Without 'Tarzan' NY Times (Real Estate Section) ~ May 19, 2006
JENN GAMBATESE'S weekend home in the Catskills is much more than 45 minutes from Broadway, and that's just fine with her. Ms. Gambatese is swinging through the theatrical jungle these days, starring as Jane in "Tarzan," the new multimillion-dollar Disney musical, which opened last week at the Richard Rodgers Theater on West 46th Street. . . .  "I'd never been to an audition where I put on a helmet and was set in a harness and climbed 30 feet in the air and they said, 'Let go.' And you swing across and catch on the other side, or hang in the air with nothing to catch onto." . . . The critics were generally not kind to "Tarzan." (On the other hand, the show has a reported $20 million advance.) "I don't read them," Ms. Gambatese said of the critics. "Either way they go, it gets in your head." Mostly, she said, she is "looking forward to getting back to some form of normalcy." More>>>


“Director Bob Crowley's design--lush vine forests, undulating waters, shape-shifting plants--and the aerial choreography, from the creator of off-Broadway's De La Guarda troupe, make it the most visually enthralling show since 'The Lion King.'” ~ TIME Magazine

“What stagecraft! Bob Crowley, who directed as well as designed the sets and costumes, is a wizard.TARZAN is the only show of the season that places us joyously in a world of wonder.” ~ Financial Times
“The musical's dazzling opening sequence is the most impressive display of Broadway stagecraft since 'The Circle of Life' in 'The Lion King.'”

“The lissome Josh Strickland, making a notable Broadway debut as our untamed hero, exhibits a convincingly monkeyish physical vocabulary, and sings with clarity and power. Chester Gregory II, as his smart-ass best friend, has a knockout soul voice and a charming presence. Natasha Katz's shimmering lights also merits mention, as does Meryl Tankard's inventive choreography.” ~ Time Out New York
“A grand, pull-out-all-the stops musical!” ~ The Journal News
“The opening minutes of TARZAN are among the most exciting and inventive I have ever witnessed in the theatre. Bob Crowley has conjured up an astonishing succession of coups de théâtre. They whisk us from a thrilling shipwreck to an amazing underwater rescue sequence, from a bird's-eye view of a tropical beach to a jungle full of gorillas swinging around like kids in an adventure playground.” “Thanks to Meryl Tankard's athletic tumbling choreography and Pichón Baldinu's stunning aerial stunts, the show creates a sense of wonder and delight.” ~ London Telegraph
“A gaspingly beautiful design achievement that uses aerial choreography and a dazzling bag of optical tricks to plunge the viewer deep into the vortex of its tale. The name of the game is spectacle--Jaw-dropping, ocean-swelling, swing-from-the-sky entertainment-and by that measure, Tarzan is one sexy ticket.” ~ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Director and designer Bob Crowley, choreographer Meryl Tankard and aerial designer Pichón Baldinu expertly bring some welcome sense of wonder to the show as their agile performers swing, soar, somersault and otherwise sail overhead. Such joyful movement all over Crowley's abstract depiction of a jungle is the most exciting component to the production.” ~ The Star Ledger
“Crowley's opening set design depicting a ship wreck and Tarzan's drowning parents is magnificent. And Natasha Katz illuminates the settings quite beautifully. As Tarzan, Josh Strickland is very impressive. Required to sing, swing on a vine and do acrobatics all at the same time, he gives new meaning to triple threat performer. Chester Gregory II is amusingly animated. As the head of his gorilla tribe, Shuler Hensley has a commanding presence, and playing Tarzan's gorilla mother, Merle Dandridge manages to project maternal warmth and character.” ~ NY1 News
“Performers bounce and soar through the air, walk on walls and slowly descend from the top of the theater nearly close enough to touch audience members' heads!” ~ The Record
“Bob Crowley's vertigo-defying perspectives amaze and astound. Crowley-aided by Pichón Baldinu's whirling aerial design and Meryl Tankard's gymnastic choreography-knocks us out with numbers and sequences that represent a theatrical fantasia.” ~ Backstage

The Cast
Tarzan The Broadway Musical

Photo ©2005 Joan Marcus
Tarzan & Leopard

David Henry Hwang ~ Jenn Gambatese ~ Bob Crowley 
Josh Strickland ~ Phil Collins

Tarzan & Jane
Under Starry Skies
Photo by Sue-On Hillman
Danton Burroughs and the
ERB, Inc. Staff with Bill Hillman
Photo by Bill Hillman
Danton Burroughs Interview
ABC News Nightline


Intro ~ Contents
NYC: Advent
NY Adventure
On the Carpet
Disney Party
Last Safari


Tarzan Preview Notes
Opening Night Notes
Review Highlights
Tarzan Souvenirs
Before & After Notes

Tarzan on Broadway: 1921

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