April 14, 2018 — The call of the jungle began April 12 at the Florence Events Center with performances for local schoolkids and swelled to a crescendo throughout the weekend, echoing up and down the central Oregon coast.
CROW did it again.
The Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops (CROW) presented another fabulous show, “Tarzan,” the stage musical based on the Disney film.
"Tarzan” was a stretch for the young troupe. In addition to a comedy, fantasy, adventure and romance, “Tarzan” is a drama that tackles complex situations — lost babies, lost parents, dysfunctional families, sibling rivalry, adolescent identity, adult anxiety, self-discovery, decisions, loyalties and compromises. Heavy duty stuff for young actors, but the stuff dreams are made of and the challenges CROW prides itself on exploring.
The troupe grows with each performance.
When you entered the theater leading to your seat, you step onto another continent. Maps of Africa line the walls, splashed with large, exotic leaves. At the top of the ramps you passed through an arbor of green vines to view an absolutely stunning stage — a green and purple jungle, thick with mystery, and a rough-hewn gnarly bridge over a bright blue stream.
No sooner are you immersed in the set than the stage fills with some 60 actors sporting ingenious costumes and moving in perpetual harmony.
Managing all those actors ranging from age four to 20 would seem a logistics nightmare, but CROW director and choreographer Melanie Heard and her extraordinary crew had everything under control for a seamless performance.
Each of the two acts is introduced by 16 tiny telegrammers strung across the stage wearing pith helmets and khaki shorts, a platoon of pint-size Indiana Joneses leading a safari into the heart of darkness. These were the baby CROWs from whom great things will come as time goes by.
Then a tsunami makes waves in the theater aisles and a ship wrecks in front of the stage. A human couple survive long enough to secure their baby’s safety before a vicious leopard destroys them. The same beast also takes the baby of a gorilla couple. The human baby becomes Tarzan, named by his adoptive parents, the gorilla couple.
After that hair-raising opener, the show gets down to monkey business, and the years fly by. Tarzan grows up uneasily, loved by his mother but disparaged by his father.
When Tarzan comes of age, he swings gleefully across the stage, clutching a thick, green vine. It is a thrilling sight, enhanced by two professional aerialists from Eugene climbing vines with dazzling dexterity.
Conflict continues when humans arrive to study rare specimens of flora and fauna. That’s when Tarzan meets Jane — and the rest is history.
The actors sing to a music by Phil Collins, whose lackadaisical lyrics are infused with passion and wit by accomplished CROW vocalists, including Jake Molano as Tarzan’s birth father and Nyah Vollmar in a variety of roles.
In “Who Better Than Me” and its reprise, both Tarzan (Cameron Utz) and his younger self (Joey Greenwood), and his gorilla best friend, Terk (William Owens), and Terk’s younger self (Cort Waggoner), sparkle with the energy and generosity of blood brothers looking out for each other.
Halle Anderson as Kala, Tarzan’s Gorilla mom, displays a beautiful voice, singing “You’ll Be In My Heart” to baby Tarzan. She also shares a witty patter song, “Sure As Sun Turns To Moon,” with Jacob Ternyik, her husband, Kerchak, the leader of the gorilla tribe. Who better to play the silverback than Ternyik, a wise old CROW!
Alizabeth Norton as Jane Porter exhibits a lovely singing voice and speaks with a cred- itable British accent. She and Utz perform a striking parallel duet, “For The First Time,” as each reflected on their new- found affection for each other.
“Trashin’ the Camp” is a grand rocker by Terk and the Gorillas as they ransack the camp of the human intruders.
While high praise goes out to the entire cast, special cheers go to Owen Harklerode as Professor Porter, Jane’s dad; the seventh-grader is terrific as the elderly Englishman, in both voice and manner!
Cheers also to Victoria Schlager as the oh-so-lithe, stealthy, fluid Leopard who moves faster than you can say “Edgar Rice Burroughs,” so fast her spots seemed to vanish.
Huzzahs as well to Isaiah Seeley, who was scary convinc- ing as Clayton, the greedy guide and great white hunter ready to exploit the gorillas and humans for his own profit.
Fortunately, Clayton got a cagey comeuppance, and all was swell and ended well.
That’s why Florence continues to go ape over CROW’s “Tarzan,” wondering how the troupe’s next show can possibly top this one. Look into your playbill for the first announcement of next year’s show.
CROW presents “Tarzan” Friday through Sunday, April 13 to 15, at the Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St. Showings will be at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for youth 10 and under. Purchase tickets at the Box Office, by calling 541-997-1994 or visiting eventcenter.org.