BWW Review: TARZAN Swings Into the Heart of Georgetown, TX
The Palace's full time technical director, Ron Watson, directs the musical TARZAN, which can easily be described as technical theatre at its best. The multi-leveled stage, with its large moving set pieces and high platforms brings the audience into the jungle with the gorillas and their unexpected friends. The attention to detail is exemplified by the set design not only on the stage, but through its extension into the theater itself. The rafters are lined with vines and a creative zip-line allows actors to amaze and shock the audience while swinging the length of the theater above viewers. The only jungle-like attribute missing was the sweltering heat and humidity - which, I believe I speak for all patrons when I say, was a blessing. With the adventure of TARZAN known by most audiences, this musical version brings refreshing variations to the traditional story. Characters are cut, genders are bended and plot lines are molded for a stage rendition both new and surprising. Theatergoers can expect a unique point of view, different from the movie and novel we have all grown to love. However, the heart and theme of the show remains the same, focusing mainly on what it means to be family, regardless of the differences between us. This motif is exhibited between Tarzan (Boyce Templin) and his 'mother' Kala (Samantha Ricker Watson) the clan's gorilla matriarch. Their affection for and protection of each other extends far beyond tradition and species. However, this often clashes with Tarzan's father-figure Kerchak (Pete Munoz), who wants to protect the clan's heritage at all costs. When a band of explorers arrive, the outcome of a chance meeting magnify the meaning of allegiance and sacrifice for the naive Tarzan. This wild story of a boy raised by gorillas represents a personal struggle of love, loss and the meaning of 'man'.
The technical aspects of the show remain a highlight for viewers, but the musical aspects tell the story of TARZAN through lively song and dance. The unconventional physical demands of the actors, portraying animalistic qualities within the show should also be noted. The apelike mannerisms, although somewhat distracting, were best embodied by Boyce Templin (Tarzan). His gruff and brutish characteristics, childlike curiosity and gorilla sounds were realistic and entertaining. His relationship with Danielle Ruth (Jane), although fairly cheesy, is a sweet and admirable romance, suitable for the youngsters in the audience. Ruth exemplifies qualities of a seasoned acting professional, impressively handling the staging and technical aspects of the show with ease. Coordinating through complicated gags involving a giant spider web and swinging with Tarzan himself, her control and humor do well to steal the show. Also worth noting, however physically taxing embodying a Gorilla may be, Pete Munoz (Kerchak) and Samantha Ricker Wvatson (Kala) bring vitality and strength to their roles as Tarzan's mother and father. Although they are a different species, their family struggles with conflicting beliefs - drawing parallels to our our own human experiences. Their often combative behavior with one another, provide relatable, humorous, and melancholiac scenes for the adult members of the audience. Contributing to the comic relief throughout the show, is the energetic lifelong friend of Tarzan, Terk (Pablo Sanchez). As a skillful performer, Pablo's timing is superb in the spirit of the show and did well to bring lightheartedness to the stage.
Apart from the impressive acrobatics, the choreographed dance sequences are unfortunately underwhelming. Understandably, with such a expansive cast, the organization is chaotic and complicated to watch. However, this can be viewed as keeping with the theme of primal animalistic dance, but often seemed turbulent. The ensemble cast, though clunky, are cute and execute the gags within the show well. With a crafty zip-line utilized over the audience, butterflies and leopards suspended high above the stage floor, and a spider the size of a mini cooper barreling down the aisle of the house, the technical coordination has strong execution. With an ensemble featuring young adults and children, these feats, though somewhat disjointed, are charming and lively to watch.
Bringing two worlds together in The Palace's TARZAN, audiences can relate to the gorilla clan's fight for a unified family and the meaning of sacrifice. This adventure is highly recommended for the whole family. The action and tricks entertain the young and the empathetic narrative will captivate the adults. Learning a bit more about the importance of family and unity, the lessons to be gained for all ages watching are more than mere spectacle. Swing into the theater with your clan and venture into the jungle with TARZAN.
FEB. 26TH - MAR. 27TH
Georgetown Palace Theater
Directed: Ron Watson
Choreographed: Jesee Smart
Music Direction: Austin Kimble
Music and Lyrics: Phil Colines
Photo Credit: Maggie Thompson