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Tarzan Musical

Disney's Tarzan - The musical in Hamburg

or, Pimp my Tarzan

Musicals are frequently unchartered waters for the Genesis fan and equally so for those who have written an article about a Genesis or Phil Collins show. For Maik Frömmrich musicals are what he makes his living with. Though he currently works as an assistant director at a theatre he used to write report and reviews for the internet site Musicalzentrale. He reviews the Tarzan musical for us in the context of other musicals.

Here we go, the musical version of Disney’s film Tarzan sets out to conquer German audiences. The musical with the music by Phil Collins was a flop on Broadway – it was cancelled after on 486 shows. In The Netherlands it is allegedly a bigger success than Disney’s musical hit The Lion King, and things do not look bleak at all in Germany. Stage Entertainment, the production company, wanted to be on the safe side. They upgraded the Dutch version with flight acrobatics across the heads of the audience. For Germany they took another step and turned the Theater Neue Flora into a jungle. Immersion is the order of the day. But are flight acrobatics enough for a whole musical?

Tarzan und JaneThe show begins impressively and literally with a bang. It is hard to decide where to look first; one  is immediately drawn into the artificial green world of Tarzan. All the time monkeys and other creature fly across the audience or make their way down the aisles of the theatre. Though the musical begins strongly, it keeps losing momentum and has some lengths (particularly in the second act) that the good cast cannot act away. Continuous use of the flying gear wears down the effect and cannot cover for the weaknesses of the plot. The visual side of the musical has been done very well, also because of Natasha Katz’s light design. She has found the right light for every scene.

Three actors leave a deep impression: Andreas Lichtenberger as Kerchak sings and acts the role of the monkey leader most impressively. Elisabeth Hüber has a strong voice and excellent timing for humour; Ana Milva Gomes as monkey mom Kala is the secret star of the musical. Her silky warm voice and emotionally touching acting makes everyone else look pale. Her version of Dir Gehört Mein Herz [You’ll Be In My Heart] is just outstanding.

Maik Frömmrich, Christian Gerhardts, Peter SchützThe rest of the cast have a hard time living up to the standards these three have set. Anton Zetterholm, who, like Elisabeth Hübert, was cast for his role of Tarzan by the audience of the TV show Ich Tarzan, Du Jane! [Me Tarzan, you Jane], has a strong voice and some stunning acrobatics, but his Tarzan remains a bit pale; not even his solo Wer Ich Wirklich Bin [Everything That I Am] really touches the audience. Rommel Singson as Tarzan’s best monkey friend sings and swings through the theatre full of energy but he leaves the feeling that he could have made more out of the role. Phonetic weaknesses strengthen this impression. Jane’s father is played by Japeth Myers with a good dose of English humour. One cannot help but wonder why they could not find anybody closer to the role’s age. He seems a bit too agile for the grumpy old scientist despite the grey wig and fake beard. Rudi Deschke is the stereotypical Disney bad guy, and misses the opportunity to be really mean and nasty. He is too harmless a bad guy; of course, the role was laid out very badly from the beginning.

The rest of the cast owe our respect and applause. Hardly ever have such acrobatic feats been seen in a musical.

Tarzan is an entertaining, musical for families and everybody; it will certainly find its audience. It is quite likely that the guy in the loincloth will swing through the jungle for quite some time to the more or less stage-compatible music of Phil Collins.

by Maik Frömmrich
English by Martin Klinkhardt
Fotos: © Stage Entertainment GmbH, Peter Schütz

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