Present another find from the
Volume 1675
Disney's Tarzan®

Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Compiled by Bill Hillman

  • Tarzan: The Broadway Musical is reportedly one of the most expensive shows ever mounted on Broadway: The New York Times reports: "Teching the show - the bringing together of the show's lights, sets, costumes, props, hair and makeup for the first time - had taken twice as long as it does for most Broadway musicals. That meant nearly a month in a darkened theater amid millions of dollars of equipment and highly paid brainpower, all for what is one of the most expensive shows ever mounted on Broadway, with a budget rumored to be between $15 million and $20 million."
  • The project has spanned five years from its conception to its scheduled opening on May 10.
  • The production is currently running about three hours -- from 8 to past 11 pm with a 25 minute intermission, but there are plans to trim up to half an hour out of that. . . mostly dialogue.
  • The audience starts lining up around 7 pm and the queue extends west down to "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and east to the Marriott and then south halfway to 45th St.
  • So far every show has played to a packed house (capacity 1,368 seats) with people being turned away after waiting for several hours on the cancellation line.
  • Much of the audience is made up of families and school groups.
  • Previews of "Tarzan" have been completely sold out with rush ticket buyers queuing at the box office before 3 pm each day.
  • Reportedly, Tarzan is one of the few Broadway shows to open in the black -- thanks to overwhelming advance ticket sales. 
  • There is a reported advance of nearly $20 million, or about as much as the show is estimated to have cost.
  • A hit musical can gross around $1 million a week on Broadway, which can be multiplied many times if it tours and spawns other productions around the world.

  • A highlight of the production is the abundant aerial dynamics - lots of bungee cord jumping, climbing, swinging, flying - all of which is inventive and is very exciting and fun to watch.
  • Last summer the whole operation, under the direction of Argentinean director, Pichón Baldinu, attended a five-week "aerial lab" on the campus of the State University of New York at Purchase, complete with a half-dozen actors/acrobats. Several actors - in helmets and harnesses - spent many hours  hanging and swinging from thin nylon cords above the stage. 
  • Taking their seats at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, viewers will see spread across the show's curtain a long green vine attached to a caribiner-style metal clip at its end. 
  • The stage director is Bob Crowley, an acclaimed Irish production designer ("Mary Poppins," "Aida," "Carousel"), who is also in charge of the show's sets and costumes. We want to present the clip right away, because that's the way people fly," explains Crowley. "They're not really flying," he adds. "Characters obviously attach themselves to the vines. They clip on and off." 
  • Crowley's concept puts the focus on Tarzan finding himself. Set in a green box strung with vines, the actors take on the look of rock-climbers or bungee-jumpers, leaping from vine-covered nooks, sometimes flying over the audience and finding the nook again.
  • Buckled beneath their costumes are specially-designed types of nylon harnesses which afford the performers an amazing flexibility of motion. "The way it's built, we can take off or come in from anywhere," says Stefan Raulston, a member of the ensemble. "There's nothing fun-ner than being in the air." 
  • Performing animal-like movement plus constant rappelling on elastic lines has caused actors to develop extra muscle on their thighs and upper bodies. "You can see how much people's bodies have changed since we started," says Raulston. 
  • Yoga and body-strengthening exercises have been part of 90-minute warm-ups before rehearsals. A full-time physical therapist is employed. 
  • Inspired by a two-minute sequence from Disney's 1999 animated film as Tarzan crests across waves of jungle greenery, the look of the musical's mid-air movement generally suggests surfing. The process "actually is closer to rock-climbing," says producer Thomas Schumacher. 
  • Crowley's solution to integrating such a large number of "flying" actors into the production is to use a bright green inflatable set, similar to a giant air castle. Holes are fashioned to allow actors to enter and exit it, with a texture like a tough plastic balloon to protect them. "There's no scaffolding or walls behind it, and it's soft," he says of the set. "It's real research-and-development stuff." But some of those holes must also be filled with lighting and sound equipment so actors must be very specific about where they're going or they will end up inside of a speaker or lighting panel. 
  • The set has to be constantly re-inflated as the show progresses, adding yet more equipment to the mix -- making a complex jungle of the Rodgers backstage area -- an area already cramped with props, electrical cable and other stage equipment.
  • Intense shades of green are colored both by lighting effects and drops of jungle foliage that travel upstage and down. Hidden in the rafters along with the overhead electrics and scenic gridwork, is a movable gantry system. This unit tracks along, containing the machinery and rigging that suspends the performers as they swing from their lines. 
  • Fortunately, all these technical and acrobatic effects don't overshadow the story or the characters.
  • Obviously a tremendous amount of training and rehearsal has gone into the flying routines. There are frequently many people on stage in mid-air at the same time and they all appear quite natural and comfortable in this environment.
  • Adapting Baldinu's complicated and potentially dangerous acrobatics so that they will work safely in the 81-year-old Rodgers theatre has required the show's technical team to install a jungle of winches, motors, steel wire and supports, all monitored by a technician, who sits in the balcony, and by the show's stage manager.
  • The flying on ropes extends out over the first few rows of the orchestra and on two occasions actors fly from the upper balcony all the way to the stage. First, the entrance of adult Tarzan, then later, a butterfly that dances in the air during a slow and beautiful descent to the stage.
  • Some of the other special effects and aerial scenes include:
    • Tarzan's parents' escape from the shipwreck at the very start of the show 
    • Tarzan's parents' "gravity-defying" arrival on shore 
    • Their dramatic deaths from the leopard 
    • Gorilla aerial acrobatics during the introductory scene 
    • Terk's introductory scene 
    • The shadow puppets sequence during the "Son of Man" number 
    • Adult Tarzan's dramatic entrance into the show 
    • Jane's entrapment in the giant spider web 
    • Tarzan's rescue of Jane 
    • Tarzan's and Jane's Act II exit 
  • Unfortunately, some of the aerial production in the first act in which characters swing out over the audience and perform above the stage cannot be seen by audience members seated in some of the orchestra section below the balcony. Tickets for that section are stamped with a disclaimer: "Obstructed View." The warning posted at TicketMaster states: "Partial view seats are located in the rear of the orchestra ... A section of the theatre above the stage cannot be seen because of the mezzanine overhang." 
  • There are 24 rows in the orchestra and only the last four are really affected and this involves no more than a few minutes of action. There are over 500 seats in the mezzanine that are fantastic for the show. 
  • For a full unobstructed view of the production the mezzanine might be the best place to sit for this show.
  • Tickets for these preview performances are at discounted prices.
  • Tom Schumacher, Director of Disney Theatricals, made a point of welcoming the audience to the first preview performance:  "A lot of you are that curious breed," he said. "Freaks of the first preview, welcome."
  • Schumacher advised them that since this is a preview there may be possible hitches and periodic stops to the show -- and that the crew might need to come out on stage should any such technical problems arise. So far, however, everything has appears to have gone smoothly.
  • Schumacher said, "The creative team for Tarzan has re-imagined, and in some cases, reinvented characters from the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, and Disney's animated film. We hope to bring a fresh perspective to the Tarzan legend, and we think that we have found a wonderful cast to make these roles their own."
  • "The design team has created a universe on stage, a flexible environment in which the show is staged both on the ground and above the ground. . . . Everybody wears a visible harness. There are visible ropes all over the stage, both for gorillas and for Tarzan — and you will see them literally clip in and harness up. It's part of the language of the piece. . . . we went to Argentina to see what it looks like if people are wearing harnesses and they're totally visible, and decided we liked that."
  • There have been a few reports that some of the dialogue needs editing as some parts drag a bit and slow down the pace of the production.
  • Playwright David Henry Hwang is currently playing doctor on the production. Armed with a notebook, Mr. Hwang occupies different seats at different performances to check out the characters — and to gauge audience reaction. Other members of the core "creative" team are scattered throughout the theatre, each monitoring his or her specialty.
  • The show is visually stunning with a superb cast of 34 actors.
  • Since the show is in preview the show is dark on some weekdays for fine-tuning.
  • Although the dialogue could use tightening it the audience generally has been impressed by its many  meaningful and sentimental moments.

  • Phil Collins, before his many years performing with Genesis, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin, began his performing career as the Artful Dodger in the original London production of Oliver! (Barry Humphries [Dame Edna] played Fagin.)
  • 40 years later, Collins now a youthful 55, is making his Broadway debut as the composer of Disney's lavish new musical, Tarzan. For this latest phase in his prolific career, he's added nine new songs to the five he wrote for the 1999 animated film (including the Oscar-winning "You'll Be In My Heart"). 
  • Collins is fully committed to the Disney Tarzan project, having lived with it since 1995 when preparations started . He's also resigned to the harsh reviews that seem to be the norm from Broadway critics: "I get kicked around by critics all the time. I can count on one hand the amount of really good reviews I've had for anything I've done throughout my career. . . . I'm prepared for anything."
  • Collins has indicated that his five children (aged 2-33 years) are looking forward to attending opening night.
  • Three of the major songs in the production were eleventh hour compositions he wrote since starting to work in New York: The song for Tarzan's best friend, Terk, "Who Better Than Me" and two songs for Tarzan's ape father, Kerchak, "Sure as Sun Turns to Moon" and "No Other Way." These additional songs have expanded Kerchak's part beyond what it was in the movie -- in fact, all of the characters have been expanded to become "real people."
  • Other song titles include: "You'll Be in My Heart" "Two Worlds," "Jungle Funk," "I Need to Know," "Son of Man," "Sure As Sun Turns to Moon," "Waiting for This Moment," "Different," "Trashin' the Camp," "Like No Man I've Ever Seen," "Strangers Like Me," "For the First Time" and "Everything That I Am."
  • The drum-heavy "Jungle Funk" instrumental, where young Tarzan is watching and learning the apes, sounds a lot like "something you'd find on a Phil Collins record," the composer says.
  • Collins has even played percussion on the cast album. 
  • "What we've done here is formed a band. The usual thing (on Broadway) is that people come in and they'll say 'Well, I'm doing something else tonight and they'll send in a sub.' I'm trying to tell them that it's their presence, they way we've rehearsed it, the way we've got to that makes it what it is. It's not just a job, it's a labor of love," he says.
  • Collins will be heard on a bonus track on the CD singing the Tarzan tune "Everything That I Am." "At one point," Collins said, "I thought I'd record all the songs on a record, but, of course, that takes a bit of steam away from the cast album. So, for the cast album we did last week, I ended up playing percussion." 
  • Collins has sat in the mid-orchestra section for most of the performances -- to the delight of his many fans in the audience. "I've spent  three or four years on this," said Collins of the show. "And I intend to stay with them to the death." 
  • The show opens with impressive visuals, but the two opening songs -- "Two Worlds" and one other --  are sung (prerecorded?) off-stage.
  • Many of the songs throughout the production are accompanied by an off-stage chorus.
  • The cast vocals are marvellous, especially considering that many of the songs are done while swinging about on harnesses above the stage.

  • The opening sequence is a spectacular piece of stagecraft.  The first image - an elegant blue map of Africa - is projected on the stage, and a elaborate soundscape (seagulls, waves, a groaning ship) fill the theater. And then, with a clap of thunder and a flash of artificial lightning, the hall goes dark and the first act begins. It involves some great lighting effects with a scrim, a simulated drowning, and a terrific stage-clearing "vacuum" effect.
  • It's a great opening effect -- a sinking boat with people lifted into the air in such a way as to make it look like they are submerged in water, struggling to get to the surface.
  • The survivors are then attached to the upper back stage wall to make it look like they have drifted up onto the beach.

  • Act I also features an impressive waterfall effect.
  • The ape costumes are fabulous, covering much of the actors' bodies with long brown hair.
  • The various small animal, insect and flower costumes are very colorful and attractive.
  • There is an on-stage transition from baby Tarzan to young Tarzan -- mostly done with lighting effects.
  • Young Tarzan is played by two fine actors: Daniel Manche and Alex Rutherford, who play the role on alternate nights.
  • They spend much of their time on all fours, scampering ape-like and doing flips and ground pounding.
  • Accompanying part of the young Tarzan appearances is a "Son of Man" video sequence where a movie-like screen is used to project a delightful scene.
  • Shuler Hensley (Kerchak) and the other "ape actors" are in elaborate and realistic ape makeup with lycra and human hair. Hensley's impressive big First Act number is "No Other Way."
  • The Act Two opener – "Trashin’ the Camp" is a crowd pleaser that recreates much of the action and many of the sound effects used in the film version.
  • The "Camp" scene is led by Chester Gregory (he previously played Seaweed in Hairspray) who does an upbeat, rhythmic song called "Who Better Than Me."
  • Gregory along with Hensley and Merle Dandridge are the only cast members playing gorillas who have a real face and personality.
  • The gorilla dances and acrobatics are full of boundless energy -- jumping, twirling, pounding the ground, and flying via ropes while making ape sounds and motions.
  • Tim Jerome plays Jane's father, Professor Porter, as a somewhat distracted and stereotypical English bumbling old man -- he even has a piano playing scene.
  • Donnie Keshawarz plays Clayton with an American southern accent rather than as an English gentleman as played in the Diesney film version.
  • Jenn Gambatese's performance as Jane is impressive, especially considering the acrobatics she must go through.
  • Jane first appears in long tropical garden sequence in a beautifully choreographed dance amid flora and fauna, with insects, spiders, creepy-crawlies, etc. hanging and dancing and spinning from ropes at various heights above the stage floor.
  • Her singing, especially in "Waiting for this Moment," is crystal clear and she speaks with a refined English accent.
  • She is very lovely and wears many pretty costumes although some of the audience find the dresses unflattering.
  • The adult Tarzan (Josh Strickland) makes his first appearance by flying in from the back of the mezzanine.
  • The extremely fit Strickland (a Charleston, South Carolina native of American Idol and Star Search fame) plays most of his performance in a loin cloth, which the ladies in the audience especially find most appealing.
  • Strickland's acting and singing are top notch.
  • A song highlight of the second act is "Like No Man I've Ever Seen" sung by Jenn Gambatese.
  • One of the most impressive new songs is "For the First Time" which showcases the glorious singing of the two leads.
  • The Tarzan scenes, where he learns about language and gets acquainted with Jane, are touching, warm and funny.
  • Also very touching is the scene where Jane’s dad (Tim Jerome) meets Tarzan’s ape mom (Merle Dandridge).
  • Merle Dandridge, as Kala, has just the right maternal presence -- enhanced by her rich and warm voice.
  • There are bursts of spontaneous applause all through the show. . . culminating each night with a standing ovation.
  • The basic ingredients are already present in the show in its preview form -- the scenic wizardry is especially impressive. As it evolves with revisions it will no doubt gain more heart and maturity, which will develop an emotional connection with the audience.
  • Crowley hopes viewers will drop disbeliefs and go with the flow of sheer theatricality. "Pure spectacle," he terms the production. "The audience is never given anything realistic. There's a whole jungle on stage, but there isn't a real leaf. A beach on stage, but there isn't a bit of sand. A waterfall and there's no water. Crowley believes that all that illusion -- plus everybody soaring through the air in time to music causes a child-like reaction in people. "I hope that 'Tarzan' brings out that 'play' thing that we un-learned as adults." 
  • "The audience makes this thing come alive," says Collins. "You can rehearse and rehearse it and you know what is supposed to be funny. There are still a couple of things I laugh at every night that I'm the only one — nevertheless, I'm sure they'll catch up."
  • The buzz in the theatre's outdoor terrace bar, where guests gather during intermission, has been enthusiastic.
  • Since we're among the guests invited by Disney for opening night, May 10, we will have much more to report upon our return to Canada.

  • Photos of the Tarzan Cast
  • See news releases on the show from over the last half year at ERBzine News
  • The Tarzan cast recording will be released on June 27 on Walt Disney Records. The recording is currently available for pre-order at the Richard Rodgers Theatre or on-line at www.tarzanonbroadway.com
  • Danton Burroughs, the grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who flew in from Tarzana, California for the previews, is very impressed with the show: "I was just bowled over by it; I loved it. My granfather's creation -- the Tarzan 'Legend' -- carries on in so many different forms, generation after generation." 
Back On Broadway
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Read the Official Disney ERB Bio HERE
Written by Bill Hillman
Click Photos For Actor Bios
David Henry Hwang
Thomas Schumacher
Thomas Schumacher
Phil Collins
Music & Lyrics
Josh Strickland
Jenn Gambatese
Daniel Manche
Young Tarzan
Alex Rutherford
Young Tarzan
Merle Dandridge
Chester Gregory II
Tim Jerome
Professor Porter
Shuler Hensley
Donnie Keshawarz
under the direction of
Thomas Schumacher

Disney's Tarzan®

Music and Lyrics by
Book by


Based on the story Tarzan of the Apes by
and the Disney film Tarzan®
Screenplay by
Directed by

This is not Tarzan's first appearance on Broadway.
See the Tarzan On Broadway 1921 feature in ERBzine 1568
For more information on Tarzan, the Broadway Musical,
see the reports in ERBzine News and the Archive Files

See the Broadway Tarzan Collectibles
at ERBzine 1676


Disney Tickets
Broadway 2006
Tarzan: The Broadway Musical
Also purchase tickets at
Disney's Tarzan: The Broadway Musical

Tarzan Tickets and Broadway Tickets

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