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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 18, 2013

Tarzan The Musical - Theatre Review - Rachel Anne Go Shines As Jane

CURRENTLY showing at the Meralco Theatre is “Tarzan, The Musical” based on the Disney animated film which is derived from the classic book of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The songs are penned by Phil Collins, with a book by David Henry Hwang of “M. Butterfly”. It made some changes from the Disney film version. The character of the elephant was deleted and Terk, the sidekick of Tarzan who’s a female in film, is now male played by Jeffrey Hidalgo.

The plays starts with Tarzan’s British parents shipwrecked in Africa. They’re killed by a leopard but Baby Tarzan survives. In a tribe of gorillas, the leopard runs away with the baby gorilla of the leader Kerchak (Calvin Millado) and his wife Kala (Ima Castro). Kala follows the leopard but finds the baby boy left by the British couple and looks after him as replacement for her own child, naming him Tarzan. Kerchak is against the idea and this is where she sings the show’s best song “You’ll Be in My Heart”.

We see Tarzan growing up, first as a little boy with Terk as his friend, then as a young man swinging in the vines (Dan Domenech.) Kerchak remains hostile to Tarzan but finally accepts him after he succeeds in killing the leopard that regularly terrorizes their tribe.

Enter Jane Porter (Rachel Anne), an English girl who’s exploring jungle life singing "Waiting For This Moment" while various colorful specimens of plant and animal life dance around her. She meets Tarzan and they sing the song "Different". Jane teaches Tarzan how to talk and they become close to each other singing the fetching “For the First Time”.

Kala shows Tarzan the treehouse where his parents left their belongs and he realizes that he’s human, singing “Everything that I Am”. He decides to go to England with Jane but a tragedy prevents him from doing so.

The first thing you’d notice with the local production is the impressive scenic design, with a huge old map on screen and the stage adorned with green ornaments indicating jungle flora. The animal characters will no doubt delight the kid viewers, what with all the swinging and jumping going around. We watched it with our granddaughter Jane and her eyes are glued on stage from start to finish.

Among the performers, Ima Castro stands out as Kala. Her exceptional singing does great justice to “You’ll Be in My Heart”, showing her sincere feelings of loving and caring for the human baby who’ll grow up to be Tarzan. Calvin Millado also shines as the imposing leader of the gorillas and Jeffrey Hidalgo steals the scene with his scatting in the show-stopping “Trashing the Camp” production number that opens the second act with the gorillas messing up the camp of Jane’s dad, Prof. Porter (Eugene Villaluz).

Rachel Ann is fun to watch as Jane, valiantly delivering her lines in a clipped British accent and with her vocal pipes soaring in all her song numbers. Dan is obviously having fun as Tarzan, with gracious stage presence and excelling quite well in all his song-and-dance numbers. Production values are generally good and Director Chari Arespacochaga certainly deserves a pat on the back for orchestrating it all beautifully. This is one show the whole family can surely watch together.