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a Musical
by David Henry Hwang (book) and Phil Collins (songs)

COMPANY : Atlanta Lyric Theatre
VENUE : Jennie T. Anderson Theatre-Cobb Civic Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 5293

SHOWING : June 08, 2018 - June 24, 2018



Based on Disney’s epic animated musical adventure and Edgar Rice Burrough’s "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. High-flying excitement and hits, like the Academy Award winning “You’ll Be in My Heart,” as well as “Son of Man” and “Two Worlds,” make "Tarzan" an unforgettable theatrical experience.

Director Bob Adams
Kala Leslie Bellair
Jane Alison Brannon
Kerchak Marcus Hopkins-Turner
Porter Steven L. Hudson
Ensemble Sterling McClary
Tarzan Stanley Allyn Owen
Ensemble J. Koby Parker
Clayton Hayden Rowe
Ensemble Lauren Tatum
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by playgoer
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Atlanta Lyric’s "Tarzan" is a perfectly competent production of a less-than-stellar work. Daniel Pattillo’s scenic design uses a unit set consisting of a frond-filled backdrop fronted stage right by a two-story rock cliff with ground-level arch and second-story tree trunk and stage left by a platform (invisible to audience right) with a ramp leading up to it from up center. Two movable (but climbable) sections of cage-like fencing start out at the downstage corners of the stage, but get moved frequently. A scrim is used in front of the set to establish scenes not occurring at this jungle location. The start of the play is very effective, as sails are whipped to and fro behind the scrim, and then Tarzan’s parents are lifted up as if swimming before being lowered as the scrim is raised, revealing them beached at this jungle location.

Ropes hanging from the flies and draped to the sides get frequent workouts as the jungle vines on which Tarzan and his family of acrobatic apes swing. Cindy Mora Reiser’s choreography tends not to emphasize ape-like qualities, though; there’s a lot a tumbling and energetically leaping dance in direct contrast to the ape-like stances the ensemble take when lurking around the edges of the set. The most consistently ape-like movements come from Vinny Montague, playing Young Tarzan. His arms hang down and swing from the shoulders. He hasn’t been choreographed like the ensemble to fling his arms up frequently in wild abandon. Leslie Bellair and Marcus Hopkins-Turner, as Tarzan’s gorilla parents, are directed by Robert Adams to stand like humans much of the time, emphasizing the awkwardness of having human actors portray non-humans throughout the show.

Mary Parker’s lighting design does a good job of highlighting action and setting mood. Preston Goodson’s sound design, while nicely balancing vocals with the orchestral tracks, pumps up the volume to what must be painful levels for audience members seated directly in front of the stacked speakers far left and right. Amanda Edgerton West’s costumes and George Deavours’ wigs work well for the humans, and ultraviolet fabrics work well in black light to establish the otherworldly experience of Jane encountering jungle creatures, but the animal and ape costumes tend to be garish more than evocative. Suzanne Cooper Morris’ props work well.

Music director Chris Brent Davis has gotten good vocal performances out of everyone. This is a well-sung show, even though most of what is sung is instantly forgettable. I’ve seen the Disney movie, listened to the Broadway cast CD, seen another production of the musical, and played vocal selections of the Phil Collins songs, but I can’t say I recognized a moment of the score. That’s almost the definition of "forgettable."

Performances are fine across the board. Steve Hudson, as always, makes the most of his every line as Jane’s father, but his scenes often end with him walking silently offstage as the scene goes on with other characters. Commodore Prious is terrific as Terk, with tons of energy and explosive dancing skills adding to his fine singing and joyous characterization. He just doesn’t seem to get very much to do. Alison Brannon Wilhoit is well-cast as Jane and has nice chemistry with Stanley Allyn Owen as a ripped and toned Tarzan with a surfeit of eyeliner. Ms. Bellair and Mr. Hopkins-Turner fill their roles ably, as do the ensemble. Even Hayden Rowe comes off well with his broad and brash characterization of the villainous Clayton.

Robert Adams has helmed a production that continues Atlanta Lyric’s tradition of locally-cast, professional-level musicals with broad public appeal. "Tarzan" may not be anyone’s favorite Broadway show, but it’s got name recognition and the Disney imprimatur, so it was bound to show up sooner or later in the Lyric’s repertoire. Welcome, and now, goodbye. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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