April 11, 2018 — Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops (CROW) is ready to swing onto the stage of the Florence Events Center this Friday for the opening performance of Disney’s “Tarzan.” The cast of more than 60 youth from 3 to 20+ years old is ready for “Trashin’ the Camp” and other adventures on the jungle set.
“Tarzan” is a chance for the whole cast to go wild. Led by familiar favorites and new stars, the musical allows the actors to monkey around, as many cast members fill the roles of gorillas and other jungle creatures.
The main gorillas are the silverback Kerchak, played by CROW legend Jacob Ternyik; Kala, played by Siuslaw 10th-grader Halle Anderson; and Terk, played by both William Owens and Cort Waggoner. Terk grows older alongside the “son of man” himself, Tarzan, played by both Siuslaw senior Cameron Utz and Joey Greenwood in his breakout role.
Waggoner and Greenwood, 12 and 11 respectively, model the joy of new friends.
“Terk has grown up in his tween years alone and is desperate for friends,” Waggoner said. “Then he meets Tarzan and he starts a new lifestyle.”
Greenwood said that his Tarzan “goes through lots of emotion,” but that Terk helps him through it.
“There are funny, sad and cool moments,” Waggoner added. “Also, there are parts in this that we can relate to in real life.”
As the characters get older, so do their actors. Owens, now a ninth-grader, has been part of CROW since he was 6. He likes that Terk is sarcastic and unique, just like him.
For Utz, the role of Tarzan is the chance for him to sharpen his acting chops.
“The show is much darker and more serious in tone than our previous productions. I’ve been silently hoping to one day land a serious role, and Tarzan is perfect for it,” he said. “Playing Tarzan has also given me reason to exercise and improve my strength.”
Utz and castmate Alizabeth Norton, eighth-grade, who plays the role of Jane Porter, also learned completely different skills as they worked with Revelers Aerial Works in Eugene. The two will join trained aerialists on silk “vines” above the stage during parts of the show.
Norton said that Jane “is very ahead of her time and very curious” as she follows her father to Africa to study botany.
Owen Harklerode, who turns 13 in two weeks, plays Jane’s father, Professor Porter.
“All the characters have ridiculous lines, but the themes are still much more mature,” Harklerode said. “Porter is quite eccentric, giving me a window to unleash my inner insanity.”
Porter’s pal is Clayton, who leads the expedition into Africa. He is played by Isaiah Seeley, who has come a long way from playing the Big Bad Wolf in “Shrek the Musical Jr.”
Seeley said Clayton is “a total redneck” but that the experience of playing the tough hunter has been fun.
Some of the songs in the production will be familiar, as they were in the film version of Dinsey’s “Tarzan.” Anderson, who “only recently joined the fun” of CROW, sings one of those, “You’ll Be In My Heart.”
“We’re part of something big and exciting,” she said. “CROW has really brought people together and lets us express ourselves through creativity.”
The cast of “Tarzan” won’t be strangers to the community for long, as the leads have gone on an expedition to bring the musical’s highlights to Spruce Point Assisted Living, Elderberry Square, Kiwanis Club of Florence, Florence Rotary Club and Siuslaw Elementary School.
“It is fun, but you have to stay up late,” Greenwood said, referencing this week as “tech week,” when the whole cast puts the final pieces of a show together.
On Thursday, one day before opening, CROW inaugurates the show with free performances for area elementary students. These two packed showings allow youth the chance to see their classmates on stage and to see a professional-quality musical in their community.
“CROW is one of the most supportive and amazing places a child, teen or even an adult could be,” said Norton. “The people here treat you like you are one of the their own. In turn, acting teaches you discipline and hard work. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Many of the same actors have been in CROW productions since it began in 2012, but new youth come in every year. More than 80 kids auditioned for roles in “Tarzan.”
“If you are questioning auditioning because of the fright that comes with it, please do it. It will pay off so much,” said Owens. “I wouldn’t have been so involved in the arts without CROW. CROW has taught me for my future and has given me specific skills I couldn’t have figured out on my own.”
And after “Tarzan?” Some cast members will graduate, like Utz, who plans to attend Southern Oregon University to major in a digital arts programs.
“CROW has been life changing for me. It is incredibly influential for the young hearts and minds involved,” Utz said. “Performing, singing and dancing in front of a crowd gives me a chance to flip a switch within me that lets me be loud and extroverted.”
CROW presents Disney’s “Tarzan” this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 13 to 15, at Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St. Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for youth 12 and under. They are available at the Box Office, by calling 541-997-1994 or by visiting eventcenter.org.
For more information about CROW, visit crowkids.com.