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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Tarzan swings onto New York stage
By Brian Barron
BBC News, New York

Phil Collins and Josh Strickland
Phil Collins (left) also featured on the film soundtrack

Tarzan the musical, backed by Disney with music by Phil Collins, is the latest high-profile production to open on New York's Broadway stage.

Big claims are being made for this stage version of Tarzan, the jungle warrior who will be celebrating his centenary just a few years from now.

The show starts with a thrilling depiction of a drama at sea as the sailing ship carrying Tarzan and his aristocratic parents founders near a mysterious island.

After the adults are killed by a leopard, the baby is found by a bunch of gorillas and one of them adopts the tiny human.

The apes are played by a group of actors and dancers adept at swinging from bungee cords and nylon ropes attached to safety harnesses.

Argentine director Pichon Baldinu, who is in charge of the musical's aerial sequences, says they are breaking new boundaries in the presentation of live performance.

Tarzan cast and producers
Cast and creators of Tarzan are applauded at the premiere

"Yes, it's true there was some fear among the dancers when they first took to the air," he says.

"But we spent weeks training them and now they love every moment flying above the Broadway audience."

Tarzan himself is played by a 22-year-old unknown actor named Josh Strickland, who first appeared in the American Idol TV talent show.

For most of the musical he swings around the stage, defending and pursuing the love of his life, Jane.

The show comes over as a mix of circus, pantomime and musical. The singing standards are high and the voices clear, in part thanks to the tiny microphones the performers wear.

The Broadway show is based on the 1999 Disney animation hit. The scores for both are the work of rock star Phil Collins.

Realism

"It has been a fantastic challenge," he says. "But I am sorry my job is now done. The team has been great and I'd like to do more projects of this kind."

Collins said he and the rest of the creative team made an early decision to present Tarzan as a human being, not some mythical superman.

This being a premiere, most of Thursday's audience emerged with positive comments.

"Tarzan is riding high over the Big Apple," said one lady.

A woman in her 20s described it as a great show with excellent special effects.

But I heard criticism from two 30-something women in who felt Disney, which may have spent $20m (10.75m) on this production, should have provided more spectacular set-piece scenes, especially in the closing act.

Money-spinner

Whatever the critics say, Tarzan is likely to make money. Disney has a proven record of backing winners when hit films are turned into musicals.

Still running on Broadway are Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King.

The premiere of Tarzan - the fourth new musical to open in as many weeks - marks Hollywood's rising investment here.

One veteran producer put it like this: "For the big studio bosses back in Los Angeles, Broadway offers lots of scope for squeezing money out of old film titles which they own.

"And alongside the cost of making a movie, a stage musical is not expensive. If it's a success, there's a huge financial spin-off with the sale of CDs and even the re-release of DVDs of the original film."


SEE ALSO:
Tarzan's chimp Cheeta reaches 74
11 Apr 06 |  Entertainment
'Tarzan's tiger' shot in Florida
14 Jul 04 |  Americas
Stars swing in for Tarzan
11 Oct 99 |  Entertainment
Critics lay into Elton's musical
26 Apr 06 |  Entertainment
From movie-making to making music
28 Sep 05 |  Entertainment


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