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San Diego Premiere of “Tarzan The Stage Musical” Swings Onto the Moonlight Amphitheatre Stage

By   /  July 21, 2023  /  No Comments

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TR Robertson -The third show of the 42nd season of Moonlight Amphitheatre Stage Productions, “Tarzan The Stage Musical”, swings into action on the stage from the opening of the musical until the final seconds of the performance. Audience members were mesmerized by the numerous aerial performances by various members of the large cast as the story of a young boy’s search for his true identity, as he makes difficult life choices, as he grew into manhood unfolding on stage. It is also a tale of his understanding of the importance of family. Wonderful voices and a beautiful Phil Collins score, amazing costuming, and a fast-paced storyline kept the opening night audience on the edge of their seats.

Photos by Karli Cadel

The musical is a 2006 musical stage adaptation of the 1999 animated Disney film. The story is taken from the 1912 novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of 25 books written about a young boy, separated from his family and raised by a tribe of apes in the Congo and all of the adventures he finds as he grows into a man, falls in love and becomes the King of the Jungle. The musical is from a book by Tony Award winning David Henry Hwang. It opened on Broadway in 2006 at the Richard Rogers Theatre. The Moonlight production is directed by Jamie Torcellini, who has performed in numerous Broadway productions and directed several plays and musicals. He also did a voice over as one of the apes in the animated feature of “Tarzan”.

The large twenty-five-member cast is led by Nathaniel Dolquist who played Tarzan. Dolquist went through extensive training for his role, including a lengthy training with Cirque du Soleil aerialists. He and other members of the cast also had to learn animal locomotion to simulate the movement of apes. From the minute Nathaniel swung onto the stage to the rousing applause and “Ah’s” of the audience, we believed he was Tarzan. Nathaniel also had an excellent voice, especially in “For the First Time”, sung with Jane (Margie Mays) and in the Academy Award winning “You’ll be in My Heart”, sung with Kala (Patricia Jewel).

The other leads included the wonderful and powerful performances by Patricia Jewel as Kala, Tarzan’s adopted ape mother, and by DeAndre Simmons as Kerchak, Tarzans adopted ape father. Both performers are returning to the Moonlight Stage after performances in “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Margie Mays makes her Moonlight debut as Jane Porter, Tarzan’s love interest. Mays presents Jane with humor mixed with infatuation and also has a strong voice in several numbers, especially “For the First Time” which she sings with Nathaniel (Tarzan).

Providing a bit of comedic relief is Jacob Haren as Terk, Tarzan’s best ape friend and Ron Christopher Jones as Jane’s father Professor Porter. Haren is returning to the Moonlight Stage and Jones is making his Moonlight debut. As Terk, Haren seems to love the aerobatics of the ropes, especially hanging upside down numerous times. Jones’s Professor Porter is presented as a bit over the top eccentric, but in a most humorous way. Receiving the loudest applause during the curtain calls was the performance by Jad Marrewa as Young Tarzan. Jad is making his Moonlight debut and is a student at Creative Performing Media Arts Middle School. He had great stage presence, a wonderful singing voice on numbers like “Who Better Than Me” and “I Need to Know” and was equally adept at the aerials required for his role.

The production of “Tarzan The Stage Musical” took a great deal of additional directions and coordination most other musicals don’t require. The Main Creative Team consisted of Lighting Design by Jennifer Edwards, Sound Design by Brandon Boomizad and Jim Zadai, Hair and Wig Design by Peter Herman, Properties Coordinator Bonnie Durben and incredible costumes Coordinated by Heather Megill. The Stage Manager is Stanley D. Cohen. Dance scenes were choreographed by Ala Tiatia-Garaud. The additional Creative Team for this musical included Flying Choreographed by Paul Rubin, Fight Choreographer Lance Arthur Smith, Projection Designer Infante Media and superb make-up Design by Jamie Leodones-Sproul. One amazingly staged scene involved Jane exploring the wonders of the jungle and the beauty of the insects and flora. This is a spell binding and wonderfully costumed moment with some amazing aerials involving butterflies.

The “Tarzan The Musical” Orchestra was led by Conductor Elan McMahan, music directing her 59th Moonlight production. She conducted a 13-piece orchestra that produced a wonderful sound of the Phil Collins music written for the musical.

There are strong messages in this musical, other than the importance of family and friends and accepting differences. Kerchak, Tarzan’s ape father, expresses one when he says to Kala, “The leopard kills because he is hungry and humans kill for pleasure” and Kala tells Tarzan, “There is nothing more savage than human greed.” Looking at many of the world’s issues today, I would have to agree with both of them.

“Tarzan The Musical” will be on the Moonlight Amphitheatre Stage until August 5th. Moonlight Amphitheatre is located in Brengle Terrace Park in Vista. Tickets can be purchased at 760-724-2110 or go online to www.moonlightstage.com. The musical is appropriate for all ages, but parents with younger children should be aware there is a scene involving a leopard attacking Tarzan’s real parents and their “disappearance” and a death scene toward the end of the musical involving Tarzan’s ape father Kerchak. Both scenes are handled with great care and staged appropriately, but younger children might have questions.

Up next at Moonlight is a Broadway classic, “42nd Street” beginning August 16th. Tickets on sale now.

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