BWW Reviews: Swing...and a Near-Miss for TARZAN the Musical at the Arvada Center
The Arvada Center presents the Colorado stage debut of TARZAN® The Stage Musical (with music and lyrics by British pop icon Phil Collins and written by David Henry Hwang) playing now through August 3rd. Familiar to families over several generations, TARZAN tells the story of an infant boy orphaned in a shipwreck on the shores of west Africa. The child is taken in and raised by a tribe of gorillas. He becomes a man, thriving in this primitive environment, until the arrival of a hunting expedition and his realization of the world beyond his jungle home. TARZAN® The Stage Musical is based on the Disney animated film.
I have to say that this production was a bit of a conundrum for me. After such amazing and memorable shows at the Arvada Center such as Man of La Mancha, Curtains, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Chess and Legally Blonde, I was completely taken by surprise by the lack of cohesion in TARZAN. Now the company is not to blame for this wildebeest since there were problems at the shows core. The script was very disjointed and jumbled and never found its stride until Act Two. Also while I have the utmost respect for the musical genius that is Phil Collins, the music of this show felt like it belonged on KOSI101 rather than on a stage. This production seemed choppy, rushed and downright confusing for the first several scenes and they did not find their stride until Brian Ogilvie swung into the scene. I did find reassurance in Act Two as the musical found its focus, grew in energy and dynamic performances. Highlight numbers include - You'll Be in My Heart, Son of Man, Different, Like No Man I've Ever Seen, Strangers Like Me, For the First Time, Everything I Am, Sure as Sun Turns to Moon, and Two Worlds.
Brian Ogilvie certainly had the powerful voice and physique to swing into the role of Tarzan. He performance was dynamic and I enjoyed his renditions of Son of Man, Strangers Like Me, and Everything I Am. He also had wonderful chemistry and a nice love arc with Jane (played by the lovely Jennifer Lorae). While I did find her accent quite odd, her performance was heartfelt and I found myself drawn to her evolving inner strength as the show progressed. Her duets with Tarzan (Different and For the First Time) were magnetic and wonderful. The shining star of this production was Shannan Steele in her passionate portrayal as Tarzan's "mother", Kala. She captured the audiences hearts with You'll Be In My Heart (in my opinion the best song of the show); and her duet with Tarzan Sure as Sun Turns to Moon brought a tear to everyones eye. Laurence A. Curry exuded strength and power in the role of tribe leader, Kerchak. His acting was outstanding; and even if his singing wasn't as strong he still rocked No Other Way. The clear cut ups of the show included the ever so funny Colin Alexander as Porter and Tarzan's sidekick, Terk (played by the sarcastically hilarious, Andrew Russell).
Even for its flaws, the choreography, costumes, singing, and staging gave this production a sense of charm and it really came together in the second act. TARZAN® The Stage Musical is flying high at the Arvada Center now until August 3rd. Performances are Tuesdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 1 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., through August 3. For tickets or more information contact the box office by calling 720-898-7200 or online at www.arvadacenter.org. The Stage Musical is suitable for audiences of all ages - families are encouraged to attend.
PICTURED ABOVE: Brian Ogilvie as Tarzan
PHOTO CREDIT: P. Switzer Photography 2014