Mark A. Philbrick
TARZAN THE MUSICAL; SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre, 699 S. State, Orem; directed by Shawn Mortensen; 8 p.m. Mon., Thurs., Fri., Sat.; now through June 22; running time, 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission
OREM — Looking for an entertaining show to share with the family for the month?
"Tarzan the Musical" may be the answer.
The SCERA show director, Shawn Mortensen, along with music director David Smith and a charming cast of jungle apes and flowers plus a ripped Tarzan and a fetching Jane, do a good job of telling this Disney story.
The apes (many are very young kids) have obviously spent some serious time at the zoo in close proximity of monkeys, chimps and gorillas as they scamper about, pull on their chins and hoot like the real thing.
The jungle flowers (played by teens and adults) are a riot of brilliant colors and bright combinations of feathers, fabric and bling.
Tarzan, played by former Brigham Young University football team kicker Brian Smith, is the ideal swinging ape-man. He's got the body and the strength for the part, climbing and swinging way out on the rope. (Now if he can keep the wig on!)
Jane, played by newcomer to the stage Rian Shepherd, is wonderful in her role as a scholar looking to find what makes the jungle tick.
She plays the part with a genuine sense of guilelessness, impressed with every flower and with everything she finds in Tarzan. She sings really well, too.
Cairo McGee is an engaging young Tarzan, singing with gusto and appeal, so much so that it's kind of hard to see him replaced with the older version.
Lauren Anderson who plays Kala, the female ape who takes Tarzan as her own after her baby is snatched away by a hungry leopard puppet (created by Nat Reed and operated by Courtney Ellsworth), sings and acts with real passion.
Her mate, Kerchak, played by Carson Davies, is angry with her choice and gives her some grief over it, even abandoning Tarzan in the jungle at one point.
This isn't a happy show all the way through, and families planning to bring young children need to be aware that the leopard takes a chimp baby and kills Tarzan's parents (in mercifully brief scenes). There's also a shooting toward the end.
The SCERA script stays pretty true to the film version of this tale, and the original musical score is in place.
The second half seems slower than the first and perhaps heavier with the dramatic, love songs that are less fun than songs in Act 1.
But Mortensen has introduced some humorous touches that help with apes running up and through the aisles and trashing the set during intermission.
The two Terks also provide comic relief as Tarzan's ape buddy and adviser. McKelle Shaw as the older Terk is almost out-of-control.
The set is interesting, too. Draped in a kind of camoflage motif, the netting, the waterfall and the center stage ramp provide lots of places for apes to play and run. (There was a moment of concern opening night when the tree house whirled, shook and threatened to come apart. That might need fixing.)
Jane's tent is filled with set pieces from other SCERA shows, so it's fun to find them waiting for the show to begin.
But overall, this production is lively, fun, moves along well and is well enough done that it's quite satisfying.
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.
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