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Tarzan Lies Down On Broadway: The cast album


Who better than Phil?


As musicians get older they seem to do less solo albums but more „interesting projects“. Peter Gabriel is a master of this art; apart from a number of soundtracks he released OVO in 2000, an album with his name on it and precious little of his vocals on it. Phil Collins on the other hand is a jack of all trades, and the reason that he would release a solo album only every four years was mainly that there would be a Genesis album in between. After he quit Genesis he suddenly had lots of time for „interesting projects“: Big Band, Tarzan soundtrack, more Big Band, Queen Jubilee concert, Little Dreams Foundation, Testify, Brother Bear soundtrack, First Final Farewell tour and so on. Some of it was brilliant, some of it was interesting and others superfluous. In the last couple of years Phil has worked on turning his very worthwhile soundtrack for Disney's Tarzan into a Broadway musical version which needed additional songs. Since it is quite unlikely that Phil will swing through the musical theatre on a liana this can be called Phil's OVO project. A couple of years ago Phil played around the corner, in a sold-out Madison Square Garden. A couple more years ago Phil had to perform a Genesis show conceived of by Peter Gabriel with a plot Phil has admitted to never having fully understood. Now things are easier for him. It is not the lamb but Tarzan who lies down on Broadway. Interesting?

If you expected a pure Phil Collins album you will be disappointed. Phil did write all the songs and the lyrics for Tarzan, but on a cast CD it is the musicians, actors and singers of the cast who perform the music. Collins has mentioned that he had considered doing his own Tarzan Broadway album, but the Broadway project is a musical first and foremost – and that is why Phil stepped back in the interest of the actors and musicians from the musical. He has written nine new songs and all four of the 'old' Tarzan songs (Two Worlds, You'll Be In My Heart, Son Of Man and Strangers Like Me) as well as the feelin'-good percussion piece Trashing The Camp (luckily, sans N'Sync) are included, too.

The musical concept of the show is completely by Phil. He was anxious that his songs would not work because some musical director thought it had to be done another way. So Phil spent much time in New York and got very involved with the show. The CD offers 18 songs from both acts of the musical, and because Phil could not really hold absolutely still one of the songs, Everything That I Am, is included in his own version as track #19. Four songs are repeated during the musical, mainly Two Worlds which reappears frequently throughout both film and musical. You'll Be In My Heart and two new songs, Who Better Than Me and Sure As Sun Turns To Moon are also reprised in the second act.

The singers on the cast CD (and in the musical) are all experienced actors with quite a wide range of backgrounds:


Josh Strickland (Tarzan)
He toured through the U.S. with a production of Rent before Tarzan. He was also in the U.S. version of Pop Idol and has sung with Shania Twain and jazz musician Kevin Mahogany. Strickland sings on tracks 1, 9 and 12-18.

Daniel Manche & Alex Rutherford (young Tarzan)
The character of young Tarzan is split up between Daniel Manche and Alex Rutherford. Both can be heard on the cast CD. Manche sings track 3 while Rutherford (not related to Mike) sings on tracks 5 and 15.

Jenn Gambatese (Jane)
Jenn was a part of several Broadway and off-Broadway productions including Fame. You can see her in Robert de Niro's film The Good Shepherd. Jenn plays Jane and sings on tracks 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 18.

Merle Dandrige (Kala)
Kala received much praise even in the film version. In the musical the character is played by Merle Dandrige who also played in Broadway productions of Rent, Aida and Jesus Christ Superstar. She has got her own homepage and sings on tracks 2, 4, 7, 16 and 17.

Shuler Hensley (Kerchak)
Kerchak, boss of the gorilla clan, is played by Shuler Hensley. Hensley has already won a Tony (the equivalent of an Oscar for Broadway productions). He has played Les Miserables on Broadway, Phantom Of The Opera (in Hamburg, Germany) and several Hollywood films such as The Legend Of Zorro and Van Helsing. Shuler also has his own homepage. He can be heard on tracks 4 and 7.

Chester Gregory II (Terk)
Chester plays the role of Tarzan's best friend Terk. Before that he played in the Broadway hit Hairspray and sang for Michael Jackson. He had released a solo CD called High Love. More information on his own homepage. Chester sings on tracks 3, 6, 10 and 14.

Timothy Jerome (Professor Porter)
Absentminded professor Porter is played by Timothy Jerome who could also be seen in Phantom Of The Opera, Cats and Beauty And The Beast. He is also founding president of the National Music Theatre Network. Jerome sings on track 11.

Donnie Keshawarz (Clayton)
Donnie Keshawarz plays Clayton, the bad guy. He also performed in Taboo and numerous off-Broadway productions and can be seen in several episodes of the TV series Lost, 24 and Sex And The City. On the Tarzan cast CD he does not sing any lead vocals.


Noch ohne Bart: Phil mit Tarzan und Jane (Foto: broadway.com)Many of the songs are unmistakable Collins songs. The four 'old' songs that had been released as singles in 1999/2000 sound a bit strange now but this is of course because these are new recordings with other singers – and the musical orchestra:

Horace V. Rodgers – vocals on Son Of Man
Ethan Popp - keyboard
Jim Abbott - keyboard
Martyn Axe - keyboard
Roger Squitero - drums, percussions
Javier Diaz - drums, percussion
Hugh Mason - bass
JJ McGeehan - guitars
and many other musicians.


Who Better Than Me is the first new song we get to hear on this album. It comes with a quick beat and catchy melody that resembles typical Collins up-tempo numbers such as Two Hearts. No Other Way is about Kerchak's conflict about Tarzan and takes the form of a discussion between Kerchak and Kala. This makes the song more musical-like than Who Better Than Me. Like No Man I've Ever Seen, which was already in the film, is similarly structured as a conversation between Professor Porter and Jane; so is As Sure As Sun Turns To Moon (Kala and Kerchak again). Add to that tasteful arrangements. It has to be said at this point that the lyrics work very well. The youngsters Rutherford and Manche do a great job with their young Tarzan. Not all the songs fulfill their potential, though. Tarzan's songs in particular have more to offer than that. To be fair it has to be said that Collins' powerful versions of Son Of Man or Strangers Like Me are hard to reproduce in a musical. The fun-drumming Trashin' The Camp works much better. The quasi-instrumental is a highlight in the musical version (and borrows from the film version).

And then there is the bonus track, a kind of nod to the cast or Phil Bows On Broadway. Everything That I Am is not necessarily the best song in the musical. The bonus track presents the song in a rather unspectacular fashion – as a pop ballad. There are other and more exciting ways to close a CD like this, but Phil Collins aficionados will be happy to have a new song that is sung by Phil himself. Who Better Than Me could have been a superior choice. But – Phil simply had to write this musical. He spent quite some time on the cartoon version in the 90s and he eventually managed to keep the presentation of the music on Broadway under his control. Other musicians like Billy Joel or Elton John have been involved with musicals for longer, and Queen in particular make a fortune from their rock musical. Phil, however, just wanted to do this Broadway production. This is not an album for fans of Face Value, the old Genesis or the Phil Collins Big Band. It is a concept album with music that has to work within the parameters of a Broadway musical. It may not be to everyone's liking and it may be unspectacular at times, but it has been done well. It would make sense to also see the show before passing final judgment, but be warned that you will not see Phil play there. He will hopefully be busy working with four other musicians on another Broadway story he admittedly has not fully understood yet. Waiting For This Moment...

Musicals are not our daily business, so we decided that we needed a second opinion. Maik Frömmrich, author with the German musical website musicalzentrale.de, has kindly written a guest review.


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