<Theatre Mirror Review>"Tarzan, The Musical!" "TARZAN, THE MUSICAL!">

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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Tarzan, The Musical!"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Steps Off Broadway's second summer show is "Tarzan, the Musical" which is based on Disney's 1999 epic animated musical adventure and Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes. "Tarzan" features heart-pumping music by rock legend Phil Collins and a book by Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang. This classic tale unfolds in the early 1900's when washed up on the shores of West Africa, an infant boy is taken in and raised by gorillas who name him Tarzan. He is raised by the mate of the leader of the tribe who is mourning the loss of her baby. Apart from striving for acceptance from his ape father, Tarzan's life is mostly monkey business until a human expedition treks into his tribe's territory and he encounters creatures like himself for the first time. The boy wants to discover his uniqueness and when he eventually meets Jane Porter, his first human being, both their worlds transform forever. Director Bill Steele casts topnotch performers for these roles with athletic choreography by Keith Mottola with the cast leaping and swinging from vines. This heartwarming show also teaches us to accept others even though their appearance is different than ours. This high energy and exuberant show garners a thunderous ovation as its reward.

Bill makes the adventure scenes flow beautifully but makes the dramatic moments stand out, giving this script the strength it needs. The second act is stronger dramatically than the first. Music director Esther Zabinski taught the cast the intricate songs for the show. After the shipwreck Tarzan's parents are killed by a leopard and this same leopard steals the baby of the leader of the apes. The ape's mate, Kala adopts Tarzan but Kerchak refuses to accept him. Tarzan then befriends a young gorilla called Terk. His entrance as a grown up Tarzan is stunning!

Mike Skrzek stars as Tarzan. He is excellent as this larger than life character. Mike's powerful voice is heard in "Son of Man" and in a duet with Jane called "Different" which closes Act 1. Their voices soar in "For the First Time" which is the best song in the show. He also shows great athletic prowess climbing over the whole theater, swinging on vines, dancing up a storm and is very impressive in this role. Gorgeous red head Stephanie Urgo is Jane. She has an impeccable British accent and a superb soprano voice especially impressive and exuberant is her first number, Waiting for the Moment" where she marvels at the wonders of the jungle. Stephanie sings the duet "Different" with Mike and in Act 2, Jane tries to teach Tarzan about humans in "Strangers Like Me" and in the emotionally draining "For the First Time" when she realizes she is in love with him. Stephanie also sings "Like No Man I've Ever Seen" with her father. She and Mike have excellent chemistry together and the crowd cheers when Tarzan and Jane finally get together at the end of the show. They are both headed to Los Angeles where they have several acting gigs lined up!

Marco Rosato commands the stage as Kerchak, in this authority figure role. He sings "Two Worlds" with his mate Kala, "No Other Way" when Tarzan breaks a rule using a home made spear and "Sure as Sun Turns to Moon", a touching ballad with Kala that demonstrates their love for each other. Marco's most poignant moment occurs after he's shot, lays dying, finally proclaims Tarzan as his son which leaves the audience in tears.This is a wonderful tear jerking, emotion packed scene. Caitlyn C. McKiernan as Kala has the most poignant songs in the show, "You'll Be in My Heart", when she finds Tarzan as a baby and "Everything I Am" with Tarzan when she finally reveals where he came from. Her songs are reminiscent of "The Lion King" numbers. Caitlyn is fabulous in this emotional role and wins thunderous applause at her talented portrayal.

The biggest scene stealers in this show are the two actresses who play Terk, Alexis Ghoni and Gabby Millard. Their energetic and mischievous character shines as she bounds about the stage while dancing up a storm and clinging on vines.  They have marvelous voices and sing "Son of Man" and "Who Better Than Me" with Mike. Gabby is a hoot during the comic "Trashing the Camp" number while she and the chorus do an energetic dance during it. Their camaraderie with Tarzan are standout moments. Keith does double duty as Clayton, the Porter's guide and the villain of the show.He wants to kill Tarzan and capture the apes but ends up killing Kerchak and is thrown in the brig. David Ghoni is Professor Porter who is torn when his daughter falls in love with the apeman. She wants to remain with the man she loves to be happy and fulfilled.He is reminiscent of Rex Harrison is his song and line delivery. David's role is comic at first but becomes serious later on when he realizes family is important, no matter where you come from.Young Tarzan is wonderfully played by Jack Fumia who sings "I Need to Know" his solo to Kala to find out why Kerchak is upset with him. Kudos to one and all who make this a show to be very proud of. Be sure to catch this fabulous musical, "Tarzan" at Steps Off Broadway. Unfortunately it is their very last show in Bellingham, MA and they will be sorely missed by one and all. Keith has many jobs lined up in Los Angeles. Break many legs out on the West Coast

"Tarzan, The Musical!" (11 - 26 July)
@ 799 South Main Street, BELLINGHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide