BWW Reviews: Bayou City Theatrics' TARZAN Soars with Exciting Voices and Visuals
Bayou City Theatrics' TARZAN is a phantasmagorical production of ingenuity and innovation. As a young audience member, no older than seven, sat near me said, "There are no words." She also said "Is that a real baby?" referring to a toy baby doll prop. Then "There's the tiger!" when the deadly leopard jetés* onto the stage to stalk Tarzan's birth parents. So, I trust her assessment.
All jokes aside, there are no words. But, just for fun, I'll write 600 more.
We all know the story: In the distant past, in some uninhabited part of the Congolese jungle, kindhearted gorillas save an orphaned baby boy - we know him as Tarzan. Before our eyes, he matures into a full grown wildman. He swings through the trees howling and roughhousing happily with the best of his simian family and friends. Then beautiful homosapien Jane arrives on shore for an expedition and quickly steals Tarzan's heart. Even more quickly, her expedition ends and her ship arrives to steal her away back to England. Does Tarzan go with his English Rose or stay in his home with his family?
TARZAN: THE MUSICAL is based on its Disney counterpart Tarzan the movie with lyrics and music written by Phil Collins. And book written by David Henry Hwang. All the above is based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel "Tarzan of the Apes".
Director Colton Berry creates an fast paced, energetic production that is fun and intelligent.
Music Director Jane Volke is goddess-blessed with Disney quality vocalists and she directs them skillfully. Albeit, Lakiaya Evans' (Terk, Voice) jazzy vocals in "Trashin The Camp" are a tad inflexible but the strength of her voice is undeniable. The strength of each vocal performance is undeniable. It is hard to choose standouts but, if I had to, Director and Set Designer Colton Berry (Tarzan, Voice) is particularly expressive in "Everything That I Am." I sailed through the production on Tori Shoemaker's (Jane Porter) voice and wide-eyed charm. And - well, I'm not sure if you should praise someone for this but I'm going to anyway - I just enjoy the sound of Hal St. Louis-Farrelly's (Kerchak, Voice) voice. It's just a good timbre.
Lamentably, the music has a bad habit of drowning out the performers' voices. Likewise, the music often overshadowed the choreography. I would have preferred flashier choreographic choices from Luke Hamilton, milder choices from Jane Volke and a seat further away from the speakers.
Despite competing in a losing competition with the music, the dance has its moments. I especially enjoyed when a troupe of the dancers transforms a costume change into an exciting stage moment.
Fantastically frayed edges, faux fur shrugs and architectonic masks make up the costuming. Kudos for choosing dance costuming that enhances, not obscures, the dancers' bodies.
Set Designer Colton Berry has a way with designing concrete jungles. Like in BROOKLYN, Berry transforms ordinary materials into extraordinary visuals. The set is elaborately layered and wonderfully textured. The haphazard coloring gives the set a dangerous feel.
Enough praise. I can't stomach anymore cheer and happiness. Let's discuss the imperfections:
Unbelievably, like everyone's dishonest answer to the question "What is your biggest weakness?", the production's weakness was also it's biggest strength.** A phantasm it was. Occasionally, this made the show visually overwhelming.
Also, there were several unexpected developments on stage. My favorite prop, a large gorilla, came perilously close to dissolution.*** But, like expected from such resourceful artists, the recovery was seamless.
Throughout the production, there are moments of intense saccharinity that only the adults will notice. They'll have to get over it.
Overwhelmingly, TARZAN is an amazing production. Everyone involved is to be commended for cooking up the rarest of children's theatre confections. A production dense enough for the sophisticated tastes of the most discerning adults and children in the audience and sugary enough for those still in the early stages of cognitive development - me and all the three-year-olds.
* I can't say for sure that this is how the Leopard is introduced. But doesn't "jeté" sound better than "entered"?
** Lucky for you, I'm being honest.
*** Colton Berry, if you are gracing this review with your venerable eyes, I implore you, fix and keep the gorilla!
Bayou City Theatrics' TARZAN runs July 19 - Aug 2 on Saturdays (2 PM) and Wednesdays/Fridays (10 AM) at the The Kaleidoscope, 705 Main, Suite B, Houston, TX 77002 (entrance on Capitol Street). Run time: ~ 1 hour 30 min. Tickets: $12. $5 cash parking is available less than one block from the theater in the Saks Parking Garage located at the corner of Capitol and Fannin. To purchase tickets in advance visit www.BayouCityTheatrics.com or contact BCT@bayoucitytheatrics.com for special group rates and any other questions. Stay after the show to meet the cast, take pictures, and get autographs from your favorite performers!