TARZAN Begins Today at Rose Theater
TARZAN® swings onto The Rose stage with high-flying animal energy in the final show of the theater's 2013-14 season. Filled with acrobatic choreography and bursting with African jungle adventure, The Rose's production of TARZAN®, the stage musical based on the Disney film, dares audiences to get in touch with their wild side, today, June 6-22, 2014.
Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes" and the smash hit 1999 Disney animated film, TARZAN® is a touching story full of fun and adventure that will appeal to all ages. TARZAN® tells the story of an infant boy orphaned on the shores of West Africa. Taken in and raised by a tribe of gorillas, the young boy strives for acceptance by his ape father while grappling with his uniqueness. When a human expedition enters their territory, Tarzan - now a man - encounters strangers like himself for the first time and finds himself suddenly caught between two worlds. The musical, written by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, follows Tarzan's personal journey as he discovers what it means to be a man. As in Burrough's original book, the character in the musical adaptation is driven by his own curiosity about who he is and where he belongs.
The Rose's production of TARZAN® focuses on what it means to be a family and what family means in an ever-changing, chaotic world. It challenges audiences to realize that true family provides unconditional love, understanding and compassion.
"TARZAN® has been re-imagined so many times as each generation finds a different meaning in his tale. Our version is relevant to families because it embodies the idea that love knows no boundaries when it comes to an individual's background. We are all worthy of love, and it is our birthright as human beings to make sure we give and receive it," said Rose artistic director Matthew Gutschick.
The show communicates this message with heart-pumping music written by rock legend Phil Collins, including "Son of Man," "Two Worlds," and the Grammy and Oscar winning song, "You'll Be In My Heart."
The theater selected guest director Kit McKay to lead the production of TARZAN®. "Disney's TARZAN® requires a strong directional vision to be successful. Kit connects with this story on a personal level and understands that she was asked to have a point of view on the material, to do something beyond replicating the movie or Broadway production," said Gutschick.
McKay sees TARZAN® as a story about choices and personal identity. "I believe the overarching idea of Tarzan's journey is that he chooses, sadly, to cover up the best parts of himself, hide his inner ape, all for a girl," she said. "He ends up choosing his family, himself and his role as a leader over his love interest. It isn't an easy path, but it is fascinating to watch. He is owning himself and choosing his true nature over an identity that is thrust upon him by others."
In addition to the adult cast, TARZAN®'s performers include 10 youth dancers who are students of the theater's BROADWAY at The Rose program. Led by choreographer and assistant director Sue Gillespie Booton, these performers have been tasked with incorporating rigorous movement and complicated choreography to convey their ape characters.
"Everything in their movement points back to the ape," said Booton. "We have this incredible cast of trained dancers, and we have told them all that they must forget everything they've learned and get back to very animalistic movement and find their 'ape place.'
Booton spent hours researching apes online and at the zoo, then trying to replicate their movements in the studio. "Once I would find movement that worked well, I would incorporate it into the choreography. The end result appears to be a culmination of animal movement, African dance, and hip hop," she says.
Actors in the show say the production is physically very demanding, but the end result is worth the hard work. Ryan Heidenreich, who plays the title role of Tarzan, says the part is one of the most physically, emotionally and musically demanding roles he has ever prepared for. "It has been an adventure to try to find the wild man inside," he said.
The set of TARZAN®, designed by Tim McMath, is a true actor's playground, featuring a myriad of neon green platforms stretching from the floor to the top of the stage to represent a stylized jungle environment. "The set is fun and inviting, but at the same time, is difficult to traverse," said McKay. "Its design allows the apes to go anywhere, including climbing to the very top-most parts of the theater. As a human, Tarzan has to work very hard to achieve this same verticality, and it is a moment of triumph when he is finally able to leap to the top of the stage."
One of the highlights of the show will be Tarzan swinging triumphantly across the stage on a vine, filling the auditorium with the classic jungle yell that has come to define the character. It is a moment of stage magic that presented a challenge to The Rose's technical director, Grant Hilgenkamp. Hilgenkamp has rigged a special swinging mechanism that is secured in several places on the stage for maximum safety, but also maximum effect. Hilgenkamp looks forward to seeing the effect come to life on stage. "My favorite part of being a technical director is the sense of accomplishment when a well-designed show is executed by our production team," he said.
Costume designer Sherri Geerdes has incorporated a unique take on the costumes for TARZAN®. Rather than portraying the apes realistically, the costumes are brightly-colored, fantastic creations that embody the wild spirit of the jungle. Geerdes explains that she did not want the apes to be scary to children, but instead wanted them to be likeable and approachable. She incorporated bright, fun colors to help identify family groups within the ape world. As director McKay explains, "We wanted the costumes to create a sense of tribe or community among the apes. Each ape has its own sense of character, but they also have a sense of belonging that compliments the jungle."
In contrast, the human costumes are very buttoned-up and constricting, helping to convey the Victorian values of restraint and modesty. McKay explains that clothing symbolizes liberation in the show. The character Jane, for example, gradually sheds pieces of her Victorian garb throughout the show, illustrating her transformation from a proper Victorian woman to the wild Jane of the Jungle. She becomes truly alive in the jungle, and becomes truer to herself in the process.
The Rose looks forward to presenting a daring stage production filled with African jungle adventures. "This will be an absolute kinetic spectacle with a heartwarming message of love and family. We are all eager to share the two worlds of TARZAN® with Omaha," said Gutschick.
TARZAN® is recommended for families with children ages 4 and up, and is two hours long with an intermission.
TARZAN® runs today, June 6-22, 2014, with performances on Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be a special performance on Thursday, June 19. Interpretation for the hearing impaired will be offered at the 2 p.m. show on Saturday, June 14.
To enhance the TARZAN® experience, educators from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium will present a special learning activity in the theater lobby prior to all performances of the show. This activity will highlight animal behavior and demonstrate different ways that animals and humans communicate.
Ticket reservations are required, with prices from $20-25. Discount ticket vouchers for main floor seating are available for $20 at all area Hy-Vee stores. For information or to make reservations, call The Rose Box Office at (402) 345-4849 or online at www.rosetheater.org.