Tarzan (musical)

Tarzan is a musical based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios 1999 film of the same name. The songs are written by Phil Collins with a book by David Henry Hwang. The musical mostly follows the plot of the Disney film: Tarzan is raised by gorillas, meets Jane, a young English naturalist, and falls in love. Jane's entourage plans to kill the gorillas, and Tarzan's loyalties are tested.

Poster for the original Broadway run.
MusicPhil Collins
LyricsPhil Collins
BookDavid Henry Hwang
SettingWest African Jungle
by Walt Disney Animation Studios

The original Broadway production opened in 2006, directed and designed by Bob Crowley with choreography by Meryl Tankard. The production ran for 35 previews and 486 performances. Subsequently, the show has been staged in several other countries and by regional theatres.


A workshop was held in 2004, with Daniel Manche as the Child Tarzan, Matthew Morrison as the Adult Tarzan, Adam Pascal as Tarzan Storyteller and Laura Bell Bundy as Jane.[1]

The musical began previews on Broadway on March 24, 2006, and officially opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on May 10,[2] making it the only Disney Theatrical production without an out-of-town tryout. Bob Crowley designed the sets and costumes and directed the original Broadway production; choreography was by Meryl Tankard and lighting by Natasha Katz.[2] Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, attended the opening night party, as did Phil Collins.[3] The production was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha Katz).

Due to poor ticket sales, the show closed on July 8, 2007 after 35 previews and 486 performances.[4]

The musical follows the plot of the Disney film, with a few minor changes. Terk, who was a female in the film, is a male in the musical. The major character of Tantor the male elephant came from the musical.


Act 1

Off of the West African coast, a young English couple and their newborn son barely survive a shipwreck and land in Africa. They construct a tree house for their son before being killed by a leopard named Sabor. In the African Jungle, Kerchak, the leader of a tribe of gorillas admires his new infant son with his mate, Kala ("Two Worlds"). Sabor suddenly appears and kidnaps the newborn baby gorilla. Kala goes off to find her son but finds the human boy instead and names him Tarzan. She mothers him and raises him despite Kerchak's refusal to treat Tarzan as his son ("You'll Be In My Heart").

As a young child, Tarzan finds that he cannot keep up with the tribe, while Kerchak views him as a threat. Despite this, Tarzan is befriended by the lighthearted Terk, a young gorilla who teaches him the ways of the gorillas ("Who Better Than Me"). However, Kerchak finds Tarzan constructing a spear, and assuming he intends to hurt the gorillas, he exiles him from the gorilla tribe ("No Other Way"). Kala worries for him and goes off to find him. She discovers him despairing by the water's edge ("I Need To Know"). Kala tells him that even though they look different, underneath the skin, they are just the same, reigniting Tarzan's desire to become the best ape ever.

Years pass, and Tarzan grows into a young man, athletic and resourceful ("Son of Man"), accepted by many of the gorillas as one of their own, except for Kerchak. Kala tries to convince Kerchak to accept Tarzan ("Sure As Sun Turns To Moon"). Kerchak won't change his mind until Tarzan kills the leopard that has been terrorizing the tribe. Suddenly, gunshots are heard throughout the jungle, causing the tribe to scatter, but Tarzan investigates. Deep in the jungle, Jane Porter, a young English naturalist, is overwhelmed by the thrillingly diverse jungle life ("Waiting For This Moment"). While exploring, she is attacked by a giant spider but is rescued by Tarzan. Tarzan and Jane carefully assess each other as they realize their similar qualities ("Different").

Act 2

At the Porter expedition site, Terk and the other gorillas discover the site and all of its unique features, and do some redecorating ("Trashin' The Camp"). Jane returns to the site with Tarzan, and she is thrilled by the tribe of gorillas. Kerchak arrives and scares the gorillas off. Jane tries to convince her father, Professor Porter, and their guide, Clayton, that she discovered a wild man and a tribe of apes. Kerchak forbids contact with the humans, but Tarzan and Jane grow to love each other and Jane tells her father more about the wild ape man ("Like No Man I've Ever Seen"). Tarzan soon visits the humans and becomes properly acquainted with them, especially Jane, though Clayton becomes jealous of their love.

Jane tries to teach Tarzan more about humans and human life, while Tarzan shows her his jungle world, too ("Strangers Like Me"); all the while, Jane tries to cope with her emotions ("For The First Time"). She tries to tell her father to stop Clayton's plans of killing the gorillas, but Clayton, wanting to achieve his goal, tricks Tarzan into taking the humans to the gorilla nesting grounds. Tarzan asks Terk to help him by keeping Kerchak away, and Terk agrees ("Who Better Than Me (Reprise)"). As Tarzan shows the humans his gorilla family, Kerchak arrives anyway, scattering the humans and demanding that Tarzan choose who he is. Realizing her son is torn between his loyalty to his gorilla family and his need to be with humans, Kala shows Tarzan the treehouse his parents built and he discovers all of their belongings ("Everything That I Am"). He decides to go to England with Jane and live as a human and he tells Kala his decision ("You'll Be In My Heart (Reprise)").

Tarzan approaches Jane and Porter, announcing his intention to leave the jungle and be with Jane. As the rest of the gorillas arrive to say goodbye to Tarzan, they are suddenly attacked by Clayton, who is more than determined to kill the gorillas once and for all. He shoots Kerchak when he takes a bullet meant for Tarzan, fatally wounding the gorilla leader. Tarzan fights Clayton and nearly kills him, but Porter convinces him to spare his life and that they can handle Clayton in a less violent way, and Clayton is grabbed by the man that was accompanying him and taken back to the ship to await punishment for his actions. A dying Kerchak apologizes to Tarzan for not understanding him and finally accepts him as his son. The gorilla tribe, led by Kala, convinces Tarzan that they need him to stay ("Sure As Sun Turns To Moon (Reprise)"), and Tarzan becomes the new leader of the gorillas.

At the beach, Jane and Porter are about to leave on their ship to return to England. Tarzan arrives to say goodbye to them, until Jane realizes that she loves Tarzan and, with Porter's blessing, decides to stay with him in the jungle. Tarzan and Jane kiss and swing off towards their new home, planning to spend the rest of their lives together ("Two Worlds (Reprise)").

Musical numbers

Phil Collins, who wrote five songs for the 1999 film, wrote nine new songs for the stage version.

Original cast recording

The Broadway cast album, entitled Tarzan: The Broadway Musical - Original Broadway Cast Recording, was released on June 27, 2006, produced by Mark Mancina. Allmusic explains: "Elton John, who composed the music for the songs in the movie version of The Lion King (with lyrics by stage veteran Tim Rice), left others to expand the score for Broadway, while Phil Collins, who wrote music and lyrics for the five songs in the 1999 Tarzan movie, wrote an additional nine for the Broadway show".[5] Phil Collins sings a bonus track "Everything That I Am" at the end of the album.[5] The album includes "all four of the 'old' Tarzan songs (Two Worlds, You'll Be In My Heart, Son Of Man and Strangers Like Me)".[6] The album entered the Billboard Cast Album chart at No. 3.[7]

Allmusic gave the album a rating of 3 out of 5 stars, stating: "Collins seems to understand that theater lyrics, perhaps even more than pop-song lyrics, need to be concise to get dramatic points across quickly and clearly. What he doesn't seem to realize is that that doesn't mean they should be little more than a string of platitudes, clichés, and contemporary slang. ... It's a shame; his words are as bad as his music is good". The review notes that much of the cast perform the songs as Adult Contemporary numbers as opposed to Broadway songs, and concludes by saying that "as a musical work Tarzan represents a lost opportunity to make a good pop musical."[5] Genesis.com notes that rather than being a strict Collins album, "it is a concept album with music that has to work within the parameters of a Broadway musical".[6]


Broadway (2006-2007)

Tarzan opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on May 10, 2006, and closed on July 8, 2007 after 486 performances. Directed by Bob Crowley, the choreography was by Meryl Tankard, Aerial Design by Pichón Baldinu, sets and costumes were by Crowley, and lighting was by Natasha Katz.[8]

Original Broadway Cast

Broadway Cast replacement history

  • Dylan Riley Snyder replaced Daniel Manche as first alternate Young Tarzan on September 15, 2006.[9]
  • Rob Evan replaced Shuler Hensley as Kerchak on March 28, 2007.
  • J. Bradley Bowers was cast as Young Tarzan in March, 2007 to replace Alex Rutherford. However, it was later announced that the show would close on July 8, 2007, so Bowers, Rutherford, and Snyder alternated in the role of Young Tarzan for the remainder of the show.

Netherlands (2007–2009)

The first international production of the show opened on April 15, 2007 at the Fortis Circustheater in Scheveningen, Netherlands and was produced by Disney and Joop van den Ende Theaterproducties/Stage Entertainment. Phil Collins was present at the opening night. The original cast featured Ron Link as Tarzan (winner of the show "Wie Wordt Tarzan?") and Chantal Janzen as Jane. On May 24, 2009 the show closed to make way for the Dutch production of Mary Poppins.

Sweden (2008–2009)

The second international production, and the first independent production (not to be produced by Disney) opened in Kristianstad, Sweden, on February 16, 2008,[10] and closed in 2009.

Philippines (2013)

A Philippine production of the show, licensed by Viva Atlantic Theatricals, ran from June 14-July 7, 2013 at the Meralco Theater in Manila. It starred Dan Domenech as Tarzan and Rachelle Ann Go as Jane.[11][12]

Germany (2008–2018)

The third international production opened in Hamburg, Germany, at the Neue Flora Theater on October 19, 2008 and was produced by Disney and Stage Entertainment. It originally starred Anton Zetterholm and Elisabeth Hübert, who won the roles of Tarzan and Jane on the German casting show Ich Tarzan, Du Jane. From May 2010, Alexander Klaws took over the role of Tarzan and played for three years until June 2, 2013. With over three million visitors, the musical became the second most successful musical for Stage Entertainment in Hamburg. The Hamburg production ran for five years and closed in 2013.[13]

A production was staged in Stuttgart at the Stage Apollo Theater in 2013.[14]

In 2016 the musical opened in Oberhausen where it is still playing in 2018. In the first six months the title role played again Alexander Klaws,[15] later Josh Strickland, he played Tarzan in the original broadway run.[16] Strickland reprised his role as from May to July 2017, he was then replaced for three months by Anton Zetterholm.[17] In 2018 the musical celebrated 10 years of production in Germany.[18] In 2018 for the third time in a row, the musical was voted most popular long run musical in the German Language by musical1 readers.[19] A German recording of the musical performed by the Hamburg cast was released in 2008.[20]

Tarzan Deutschland Besetzung Hamburg (2008) Besetzung Stuttgart (2013) Besetzung Oberhausen (2016)
TarzanAnton Zetterholm / Alexander KlawsGian Marco SchiarettiAlexander Klaws
Junger TarzanJannik SemmelhaackMatthis LernhartJulian Cremer
JaneElisabeth HübertMerle HochTessa Sunniva van Tol
KalaAna Milva GomesMelanie OrtnerSabrina Weckerlin
TerkRommel SingsonEmanuele CasertaMassimiliano Pironti
KerchakAndreas LichtenbergerPatrick Stanke
Professor PorterJapheth Myers
ClaytonRudi ReschkePatrick Imhof

U.S. regional productions

Utah (2010): The Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah, presented the regional premiere from June 7-October 15, 2010, playing three shows a week. The theatre was the first equity theatre to produce the musical after the Broadway production.[21] The show starred James Royce Edwards as Tarzan and Summer Broyhill as Jane.

St. Louis (2014): The Muny of St. Louis, Missouri presented the show from June 25, 2014 through July 2, 2014. Nicholas Rodriguez starred in the title role with Kate Rockwell as Jane. Other cast members included Quentin Earl Darrington as Kerchak, Katie Thompson as Kala, Gregory Haney as Terk, Ken Page as Porter, Michael James Reed as Clayton, Spencer Jones as Young Tarzan and Nathaniel Mahone as Young Terk.[22]

Critical reception

The show received mixed reviews. A review of the North Show Music Theatre production said the show took "a serious look at the deepest human emotions, setting its story to Collins’ vibrant score", and added that "this is a show that holds you and doesn’t let go."[23] The New York Times described Tarzan as "insistently kinetic ... fidgety and attention-deficient", noting that tough "momentous events occur regularly ... any tension or excitement is routinely sabotaged by overkill and diffuseness". It notes that despite "much money ... and international research" being invested into the show, "we now have conclusive evidence that the Disneyfied Tarzan does indeed flatten perversely when translated from two dimensions into three."[24] Kerry Lengel of The Republic said "the heart of Tarzan's' darkness is Phil Collins' bland melodies and generic lyrics, which offer such character insights as, 'My heart is beating faster, I must know more about her. ... She makes me feel so alive'. Even for a kiddie musical, that's a pretty weak effort."[25]

Awards and nominations

Award Outcome
John Kraaijkamp Musical Awards (Netherlands production)[26]
Beste grote musical (Best Full-Length Musical) Won in 2008
Beste vrouwelijke hoofdrol in een grote musical (Best Female Lead in a Full-Length Musical) (Chantal Janzen as Jane) Nominated
Beste Mannelijke Bijrol in een Grote Musical (Best Supporting Actor in a Full-Length Musical) (Clayton Peroti as Terk) Won in 2007
Beste Creatieve Prestatie (Best Creative Achievement) (Sergio Trujillo) Nominated
Beste Inhoudelijke Prestatie (Best Content) (Martine Bijl, translator) Nominated
Beste Inhoudelijke Prestatie (Best Content) (Phil Collins) Nominated
Beste Ontwerper (Best Designer) (Pichón Baldinu) Nominated
Beste Ontwerper (Best Designer) (Bob Crowley) Nominated
Nashuatec Musical Award voor Aanstormend Talent (Musical Award for Breakthrough Talent) (Ron Link as Tarzan) Won in 2007


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  2. Brantley, Ben."'Tarzan' Arrives on Broadway, Airborne"The New York Times, May 11, 2006
  3. "Hail 'Tarzan!' It's a Swinging Celebration for Disney's New Musical" Broadway.com, (May 10), accessed September 4, 2011
  4. "Disney's 'Tarzan' to close July 8 on Broadway". USA Today. 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  5. Tarzan allmusic.com
  6. genesis-news.com
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-10-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. Listing ibdb.com, accessed April 4, 2014
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  10. Hillman, Bill. "Tarzan Swings Into Europe". www.dantonburroughs.com. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  11. ABS-CBNnews.com, By Vladimir Bunoan,. "Review: Tarzan wears Igorot bahag in musical". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 2018-05-21.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  12. "'Tarzan' swings and triumphs on stage". Rappler. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  13. "The final Countdown für Disneys Musical TARZAN® in Hamburg | 2013 | DISNEYS MUSICAL TARZAN - Hamburg | Presse | Unternehmen | Stage Entertainment". 2013-09-18. Archived from the original on 2013-09-18. Retrieved 2018-05-20.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  14. "Disney's Musical TARZAN - The most spectacular musical of our time comes to Stuttgart" (in German). 2015-05-26. Archived from the original on 2015-05-26. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  15. https://www.broadwayworld.com/germany/article/TARZAN-bricht-Rekorde-in-Oberhausen-20170314
  16. "Standing Ovations for New Tarzan". www.stage-entertainment.de (in German). Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  17. "Anton Zetterholm will be next Tarzan in Oberhausen". www.stage-entertainment.de (in German). Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  18. "Pressemeldung | Presse | Unternehmen | Stage Entertainment". www.stage-entertainment.de (in German). Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  19. "Musical1 Musicalwahlen 2017: Die Gewinner stehen fest" (PDF).
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  21. "Tarzan listing at Tuacahn Amphitheatre, Ivins UT", tuacahn.org, retrieved February 22, 2010
  22. Nicholas Rodriguez, Kate Rockwell, Quentin Earl Darrington, Katie Thompson, Ken Page Cast in Muny Tarzan Archived 2014-04-29 at the Wayback Machine playbill, Retrieved April 28, 2014
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-10-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) nsmt.org
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  25. "'Tarzan' Review azcentral.com
  26. "2007 Nominaties, Stichting Musical Awards" stichtingmusicalawards.nl, accessed September 4, 2011
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