BWW Reviews: Disney's TARZAN at Hale Centre Theatre West Valley Has a Stunning Artistic Vision

By: Aug. 20, 2013

It would be seemingly impossible for Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley to match its most recent production, RAGTIME, in direction, artistry, technical elements, and performance. However, its new production, Disney's TARZAN, comes surprisingly close to matching its brilliance.

TARZAN (music and lyrics by Phil Collins, book by David Henry Hwang) tells Edgar Rice Burroughs' well-known story of a boy raised by apes in the jungles of Africa. When a father-daughter team of scientists arrives to study the flora and fauna of the area, Tarzan learns for the first time that there are others like him in the world. He must decide whether he belongs with the family who raised him or with the one he is quickly falling in love with.

TARZAN has one of the most woefully underappreciated contemporary Broadway scores. The songs are gorgeous and filled with memorable melodies. It would be worth seeing the show just for the music, but happily it is only one of the many strong points of this production.

Hale Centre Theatre's TARZAN takes place in an imaginative world that fuses a bright cartoony sensibility with more grounded representations of African and British cultures. Each scene reveals surprise after surprise as the design and direction provides new wonders in which the audience can delight.

Director/choreographer Dave Tinney and his production team have conceived and executed a stunning artistic vision. Hale Centre Theatre's strongest productions in the past have always been anchored in verisimilitude, especially involving recreation of historical settings. This show proves that the theatre can also lavish the same attention to detail on a more abstract creative design.

The colors, textures, and shapes of the set (designed by Kacey Udy) form a striking jungle paradise in which the story plays out. Peggy Willis' costumes perfectly complement the scenic design. Her depictions of the various jungle animals, including positively enchanting flamingos, are inspired. Hair by Trisha Ison and makeup by Broadway designer Jason Goldsberry also play a vital part of the wonderful design.

The only major misstep in the production is the strange absence of mood lighting during the climactic fight scene and a few other important moments in the second act. There is a disappointing lack of emotional resonance in these scenes that could be remedied by the use of evocative lighting.

A thrilling element of this production of TARZAN that makes it stand apart from the few others that have been mounted is the aerial artistry that it features. It was nothing short of genius to incorporate the use of aerial silk and utilize the expertise of aerial specialist Ramsi Nia Stoker. It is perfect for the show and especially for the space.

Take all these strengths, and then consider the fact that the performances are also extraordinary. Derek Smith as Tarzan (double cast with Bradley Lever) has made an impressive physical and vocal transformation for the role. His voice and demeanor provide an excellent depiction of the beloved character.

The other leads are equally remarkable with beautiful voices and great acting choices. They include Anna Daines Rennaker as Jane (double cast with Megan Heaps), Brittany Taylor Bullen as Kala (double cast with Adrien Swenson), Adam Dietlein as Kerchak (double cast with Josh Richardson), Alex King as Terk (double cast with Jeffrey Whitlock), David Glaittli as Porter (double cast with Bruce Bredeson), and Wally Inkley as Young Tarzan (quadruple cast with Tommy Hale, Will Riches, and Connor McMaster).

Please take your family to experience the wonder of TARZAN at Hale Centre Theatre. You will not regret it.

TARZAN plays through September 28, 2013. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit

Photo Credit: L-R Derek Smith as Tarzan and Anna Daines Rennaker as Jane