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Volume 1776
Part II: The Premiere
A Travel Memoir by 
Bill & Sue-On Hillman
Scheveningen is the resort southwest of Amsterdam on the North Sea. The endless miles of beautiful beaches were insignificant compared to the huge blimp and green and white banner that heralded the arrival of Tarzan the Musical in Europe!  We were booked into a quaint Italian villa-style hotel close to the Fortis Circustheater. Following the blimp, we briefly checked out the theatre. From the billboards, playbills, and the full image on the theatre tower, there was no doubt that Tarzan will take up residence here from April 15th on.
After freshening up at our hotel, we wandered back to the theatre just in time to see the foyer full of people, and Phil Collins accepting accolades. It was a “pre-opening night” showing for those working closely with the production. This scene only added to the excitement building within us for the main event next day.

Hotel Corel

JoN doing some landscaping
We had arranged for a ticket for Ron de Laat, the webmaster of the largest European ERB website, to attend opening night with us, along with Laurence Dunn, of the Burroughs Bibliophiles and Jim Sullos, vice president of ERB Inc.and his son, James. We were very much looking forward to meeting Ron as he has contributed often to ERBzine. However, Ron phoned in the morning and said he would not be able to attend due to family obligations. Instead, he graciously offered his ticket to Lia Zwartjes, aunt and godmother to Ron Link, the European Tarzan. Because tickets were so scarce, Lia had tried on eBay to find a ticket for this special event without success. As disappointed as we were for Ron, we were pleased to help Lia out.  We were to meet at the theatre at 4:30 – the time when all the action would begin.
Laurence Dunn trying to hitch a ride on the Tarzan cast bus
Stage crew laying the red carpet
The next call came from the "Bloody British Hooligan" Laurence Dunn. He had flown in from England early in the morning, and was wanting to meet with us to pick up his ticket at the box office. He and JoN took up the errand and soon returned with this fantastic box of goodies along with the tickets. Here was the first sign that Holland was going to outshine New York. The silver box held three tickets, a CD of the songs from the production, a glossy program, and even a parking pass, all done in green with the white Tarzan-on-the-vine logo.

When we arrived at the theatre, fans, paparazzi, and TV crews and cameras were already crowded along the red carpet leading to the entrance. Oscar night in Hollywood dimmed compared to the glamour and glitz of the European rich and famous attending this black tie affair. It was a thrill to walk the carpet along with these folks. If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of Laurence, Dejah and JoN in some of the online video clips. JoN was even interviewed by a the Dutch television crew.

Fans and paparazzi lined for blocks

Celebrity guests entering on the red carpet
The huge two-storey foyer was already crowded with invited guests when we entered. Dejah approached the desk and indicated that she was with JoN, the official webmaster for ERB, Inc. in America. The lovely young lady gave us a special press kit! This included a DVD of official press photos of the cast, a large press dossier (all in Dutch), and two special press passes for us to wear. Dejah thought this would get her into places where few would tread, instead, she was told to go out to the press gallery bleachers lining the red carpet! She did as told, took some video footage of JoN re-entering the theatre for the photo op, then quickly whipped off the pass so she could join him back inside.
The show was to start at 5 pm. While the guests were mingling, servers wandered among them holding trays of champagne, wine, and petite fours. Lia, in her lovely blue dress, found us easily. She then led us over to meet and visit with Ron Link’s parents and the rest of his family. Lia's husband and Ron's twin brother both serve with the Dutch military, and the family was delighted that they had returned from a recent tour of duty in Afghanistan in time to attend Ron's big night.
Ron's parents and twin brother
Ron and his twin brother
Lia with Ron's parents
Waves of anticipation swept through the crowd as it came time to enter the mammoth main auditorium of the spectacular Fortis CircusTheater. Once we were seated, JoN opened his Chinese-style formal tunic to display his favourite ERB Fan T-Shirt with the barbaric Tarzan artwork by artist Bill Stout.

We were excited to find that Disney's Dusty Bennett had reserved some of the best seats in the house for us – a few rows back from stage centre. To be seated in the newly renovated Fortis Circustheater was an exciting experience in itself. The Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, New York, is steeped in theatrical history, but it cannot compare with this venue. Fortis had bought the 100-year-old theatre for one Euro and had extensively renovated the building, even to the extent of raising a domed ceiling just so Tarzan and his jungle menagerie could hurtle down from the upper terraces during the performance.

Filing into the main auditorium
We were soon plunged into the play’s action as costumed actors on “vines” plunged toward us from every direction and whizzed by over our heads . . . sometimes showering us with jungle leaves.

Lia had attended some of the trial runs, so she had inside knowledge of many of the new aerial antics in the show. It was great to be forewarned before Tarzan, Jane and the mangani flew down over our heads!

Joop van den EndeThe show’s original creative team and Dutch theatrical producer and media tycoon, Joop van den Ende, took full advantage of the CircusTheater’s wider stage area, open seating and towering ceiling to tweak and expand the original production in ways that left audience and critics breathless. Theatre goers were treated to dazzling aerobotics only hinted at in the original Broadway production. Scenes were altered and supplemented – and Phil Collins added more original lyrics for the show. The dialogue and Collins' lyrics were all translated to Dutch which seemed somehow to add to the effectiveness of the presentation.

Stars Ron Link and Chantel Janzen looked gorgeous in the Tarzan and Jane costumes and their vocals were strong and expressive. Curiously, the same Dutch language which was so pleasing coming from the mouths of the principals, was equally effective when shouted gutterally from the mangani.

Even a casual fan can’t help but notice the numerous other new wrinkles introduced into the Dutch version of show. Coupled with the more spectacular aerial acrobatics is the more daring choreography introduced by Sergio Trujillo, as well as a host of novel twists such as Jane making her entrance by walking down through the audience "jungle" while Tarzan observes from his perch in the "rainforest canopy" high above the audience.

Ron Link, a Dutch Idol contestant, earned the title role as a result of a prolonged nation-wide TV competition. The handsome 27-year-old comes to the role with a wide range of musical experience, having fronted a number of popular bands over the years. Not only does he handle the Collins lyrics with aplomb, but he does it while performing backflips, somersaults, handstands and even flying in harness high above the audience – no mean feat, even for Tarzan.

Chantel Janzen, already a major star in the Netherlands, needed no introduction to her audience. A striking blonde with a strong stage presence and beautiful singing voice, her contribution to the production did not go unnoticed by the Dutch media who cast accolades such as: "Chantal Janzen brings humour and chemistry to Tarzan the Musical." (Telegraaph).

The two main stars, as well as the rest of the energetic and capable cast, all seemed to delight the audience and critics alike. At the half-way mark, 2,000 theatre goers cleared the main auditorium for intermission and another chance to mingle. Again champagne and food were passed around. This provided Dejah with another chance to take food pics and gave JoN the opportunity to latch onto another collectible. Accompanying the food plates were little plastic Tarzan champagne glass holders that clamped onto the plate rims, obviously a must-have collectible. Soon after returning to our seats we were joined by Disney’s Dusty Bennett who, along with Danton Burroughs, had made all of this possible for us. Our chat with Dusty was cut short as the house lights dimmed and the show resumed.

Lia continued to provide translation when needed, although we actually had little trouble following the story even though it was all in Dutch -- the stage actions and vocals were very expressive.

Photography was not allowed during the production but the audience took full advantage of the after-show curtain calls to capture photo memories. Soon the stage was crowded  with the show's creators and stars but.the highlight of this part of the show was the triumphant entrance by Tarzan and Jane. Lia warned us when they were about to swoop down from the upper reaches of the theatre’s dome. JoN had video camera poised as they zoomed directly over us on their way to join the rest of the cast on stage.

It was with great anticipation that we were escorted by Lia to meet Ron and Chantal after the show. While waiting for Ron to join his family we roamed through the partying mass that occupied both levels of the sprawling foyer. This we opted to do rather than to use our press passes to join the media for posed photos of the cast.

Both Ron and Chantal were gracious and most willing to please their waiting fans by posing for photos and signing autographs. All of this was done against a background of American pop standards performed by the Tiny Little Big Band. We met Phil Collins in passing but were unable to strike up a conversation with the pop genius as we had done at the Broadway premiere party – he was being escorted out to a less frantic location.

We later squeezed our way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd comprised of the Dutch social elite – all dressed to the nines in tuxedos and evening gowns – past the endless tables of food delicacies, past the numerous bars and champagne trays,and to the upper level where we at last had a chance to visit with the other North American representatives, Jim Sullos, Vice President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and a member of its Board of Directors, along with his son, James, Director of Photography for the film production company, Guerilla Hollywood. Joining us was UK’s Laurence Dunn, who represented the Burroughs Bibliophiles.

This presented another opportunity for photo shoots from JoN’s rapid fire, slaphappy camera. Somewhere during our chat we were joined by a passing man in white. Dejah, ever diligent for anything/anyone food-related asked if he worked in the kitchen. He replied that he was in charge of the kitchen. That did it. . . snap, pose, snap : )

As the party started to wind down and the crowd cleared a bit Sue-On was able to reach the merchandise counter where she purchased T-shirts, a mug and a satchel – all with the Tarzan logo. In the wee hours we made our way to the exit where we were presented with goodie bags containing a souvenir book, magazine, programme, and deluxe metal case containing a very collectible Tarzan key chain. (see the Tarzan Musical Swag Section)

Next Week watch for the Photo Gallery Sections

Tarzan the Musical in Holland
The European Premiere of
A Travel Memoir by 
Bill & Sue-On Hillman
Part I: The Journey | More Pics
Part II: The Premiere | Pics 1 | Pics 2
Part III: Long Journey Home 
More Pics
Tarzan the Musical
Special Holland Reports
1. Pre-Production
2. Newspaper Review and
Official Press Photos
3. Souvenir Swag
4. Reviews | Dunn Report
Tarzan the Musical On Broadway, NY
Tarzine: Official Monthly Webzine of ERB, Inc.
John Coleman Burroughs Tribute Site
Official Burroughs Bibliophiles Site
ERBzine Weekly Webzine
The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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