OREM — Director Shawn Mortensen loves a spectacle, and that's what he's trying to create with "Tarzan the Musical" scheduled to open on the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre stage June 6.
"I want it to be a spectacle," Mortensen said, admitting he's blazing a trail as one of the first directors in the state to tackle putting the show on stage. "It makes me nervous and excited."
Mortensen is including giant butterflies, a 25-foot anaconda snake puppet, a leopard puppet, monkeys and billows of colorful fabric in the show.
He's arranging for Tarzan — played by former BYU football kicker Brian Smith — to swing from cargo netting and poles all across the stage and into the hillside-turned-jungle.
The goal is to pull audiences into a rain forest, said Mortensen. "I hope audiences will sense that the jungle is swirling and breathing all the time. I also wanted to evoke a sense of Carnival in Brazil and am using a pulsating drum beat throughout the show.”
Mortensen pushed the SCERA management to go for the show because it's a new and fresh musical many people will experience for the first time.
“I plan to make it the show people simply cannot miss," Mortensen said. The story is about a baby boy raised by gorillas in West Africa and an unlikely love story between the wild boy and a cultured young woman.
The stage production features Phil Collins’ music (including the Grammy and Oscar-winning song “You’ll Be In My Heart”) and is based on the Disney animated film and original author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story.
Cast members include Smith, Rian Shepherd as Jane, McKelle Shaw as Tarzan's ape buddy Terk , Lauren Anderson as Tarzan's ape mother, Carson Davies as Jane's expedition guide, Jim Murphy as Porter, and Cairo McGee as young Tarzan and Lily Shepherd as young Terk.
Mortensen also designed the set. Kelsey Seaver is the costume designer; James Larsen, light designer; Sunny Watts, choreographer, Danielle Berry, stage manager; David Smith, music director; and Nat Reed, puppet designer.
A new option for a SCERA show, patrons can access a video about the making of the major musical through a QR code.
SCERA President/CEO Adam J. Robertson said: “We are pulling out all the stops to make this show an incredible experience.”
Mortensen said the whole family will enjoy "Tarzan the Musical."
If you go ...
What: "Tarzan the Musical"
Where: SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre, 699 S. State St., Orem
When: 8 p.m., June 6-22
Tickets: $10 general admission
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.