Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
The Overlook Theatre Company will once again be bringing a classic tale to the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts Stage this weekend with the debut of “Tarzan.” Disney adapted the film version of “Tarzan” from a book written by David Henry Hwang who based his writings on Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Tarzan of the Apes.” The musical version includes two acts filled with dynamic music written by rock legend Phil Collins. Notable songs include, “You’ll Be in My Heart,” “Son of Man,” and “Two Worlds.”
“It is always a lot of fun to play less than normal characters,” said director Scotty Corbin. “All the actors playing the apes are a lot of fun to watch. Even though we have to maintain our own human traits, since the apes say lines, we have really worked on our physical presentation so the movement is truly representative of real apes. Plus, who doesn’t like to jump around and swing from the trees?”
The musical is brought to life by 45 cast members with both adults and children making up the talent for the Tarzan show. The set was constructed from scratch and transports viewers into the jungle.
“We have a crew of two set builders, three costumers, one director, three choreographers and a stage crew for lighting, sound and the running of the show,” said Corbin. “In all there are 15 crew members.”
Rehearsals for “Tarzan” began in mid-May, with cast members learning the music and choreography for the show.
“This is a very physical show so we had to ‘warm up’ the stiffness out of everyone’s joints which is why we began with choreography,” said Corbin. “This show is very immersive. The audience is actually in the center of the jungle and the show takes place all around them. We wanted this production to feel very environmental from the stand point of being in a completely different place. We also have lots of new surprises. The apes get to have a lot of fun with the audience.”
Tarzan is played by Samuel Crabtree, an Overlook Theatre veteran.
“Obviously getting into character for Tarzan is a little bit different than getting ready for most roles,” said Crabtree. “Tarzan is raised by gorillas so his mannerisms have to mimmic that of his “family” so I try and think of how a primate might move or how they may react to certain sights, sounds or situations. I put myself in a place where I forget about being Samuel for a while and then I play pretend, like I’m a monkey. Sounds silly I know, but it’s always fun to play pretend no matter how old you are. My favorite part of this show is probably when Tarzan finds out who is family was and where he actually came from. He has a song at that point called ‘Everything That I Am’ that is one of my favorite songs I have ever sung in a musical. I did also build the leopard puppet that is used in the show and it is on of my favorite pieces I have worked on. It took a lot of man hours and a lot trial and error but it turned out really great. Tj the puppeteer, who also plays one of the gorillas, does a amazing job of bringing it to life on stage. The leopard scenes are also some of my favorite in the show. Everyone in the cast does an amazing job and really makes it an enjoyable experience. I love being involved with the Overlook Theatre Company and the talent level that comes from all of our volunteers, from backstage to spotlight, never ceases to amaze me.”
Corbin said the music in “Tarzan” is more than just background music for the show, but rather an experience in itself.
“The music in this show is spectacular,” said Corbin. “It was written by Phil Collins, so it has his distinct rock sound. We’ve take a lot of inspiration from the rock vibe and made certain portions of the show almost like you’re attending a concert. It definitely will make the audience want to dance along.”
“Tarzan the Musical” follows the legendary story of a young English couple and their newborn son who barely survive a shipwreck in Africa. They build a treehouse for their son before facing their fate after an attack by a leopard in the African jungle. Nearby, gorillas Kerchak and Kala are admiring their newborn gorilla baby when the leopard appears and kidnaps their infant. Kala runs off to find her baby but instead returns with the human baby she has named Tarzan. She raises Tarzan despite Kerchak’s refusal to accept him as his son. Eventually, Kerchak exiles Tarzan from the gorilla tribe. Kala hunts for him and when she finds him, she tells Tarzan that even though they look different, underneath their skin they are still the same.
A young gorilla named Terk befriends Tarzan and teaches him the ways of the gorillas. Years pass and the young boy grows into a young man who is athletic and resourceful. Deep in the jungle Jane Porter, a young English naturalist, is attacked by a giant spider but is rescued by Tarzan. Jane and Tarzan grow to love each other, but the jungle and civilization collide as both Jane and Tarzan have to decide which world suits them best.
“This show is very different than anything we have produced at performing arts center,” said Corbin. “We use several mediums: dance, movement, puppetry, costumes and more to present this story. The theatricality that this show lends itself, really inspires the ability to artistically interpret a classic story in a new and modern way.”
Shows will be on Friday, July 14; Saturday, July 15; Friday, July 21; and Saturday, July 22. Each performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults and $12 for students. To purchase tickets to “Tarzan” or to find out more information about his or any other show at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, visit GreatMountainMusic.com or call (828) 273-4615.