In 1999, Disney produced a film of Tarzan. It was based on Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a resident of California’s San Fernando Valley, and it was so successful as an adventure series that a neighborhood in the Valley was named Tarzana. The film was constructed as a musical, and Phil Collins, drummer for the rock band, Genesis, wrote a song for that won the Academy Award for Best Song.
“You’ll Be in My Heart” is featured prominently in Moonlight Stage Productions, Tarzan The Stage Musical, running in Vista through August 5. Would that the rest of Mr. Collins’ score lived up to the big number.
The story of Tarzan is a familiar one. A shipwreck off the coast of Africa brings ashore two parents (Jason Webb and Capri Castriotta) and a young baby. They try to survive by building a tree house, but they’re attacked by a leopard. Meanwhile, the leopard has also attacked a colony of gorillas and has stolen a baby that Kala (Patricia Jewel) birthed with her mate, Kerchak (Deandre Simmons). Kala finds the human baby and decides to raise him as her own, despite Kerchak’s objections.
The baby grows into an adolescent (Jad Marrewa) and is treated as if he’s one of the apes. A young ape named Terk (Jacob Harren), takes Tarzan under his wing and decides to coach him in the ways of the apes. Tarzan learns to swing through the trees, and he grows to adulthood as if he’s an ape.
The adult Tarzan (Nathaniel Dolquist) is discovered by a pair of researchers, Professor Porter (Ron Christopher Jones) and his daughter, Jane Porter (Margie Mays). Jane becomes fascinated with Tarzan, and the feeling is reciprocal. Unfortunately, their guide, Mr. Clayton (Jackson Marcy) sees an opportunity to capture the gorillas and sell them.
As Kala, Ms. Jewel’s warm but no-nonsense persona dominates the action. Her rendition of “You’ll Be in My Heart” makes the most of this beautiful song. Unfortunately the rest of the score doesn’t live up to the beauty of this one song, and the show drags despite Jamie Torcellini’s energetic direction, the always reliable musical direction of Elan McMahan, and the flying choreography of Paul Rubin. Jennifer Edwards’ lighting design doesn’t help as much as it should, though Brandon Boomizad’s sound design insures that the performers will be heard and the blend with the orchestra is solid.
Overall, though, Mr. Collins’ plodding score and David Henry Hwang’s somewhat overstuffed book make for a less-than-exciting evening.
Fortunately, Moonlight Stage’s lovely location and pleasant atmosphere count for a lot. I hope that the August show, 42nd Street, will bring back a sense of fun for audiences.
Performs Wed – Sun Nights, July 19-30, 2023, Wed – Sat Night, August 2-5, 2023. Gates open at 6:30pm, show begins at 8pm and runs two and a half hours.