Friday, September 14, 2018

'Tarzan' takes to the stage at Palo Alto Players

Tarzan (Jimmy Mason) meets Jane (Jessica LaFever) for the first time. (Photo by Joyce Goldschmid)

Palo Alto Players transports its audience to the jungles of coastal West Africa many years ago with its production of “Tarzan.”

This stage musical is based on the Disney film and was adapted from “Tarzan of the Apes,” the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In the book by David Henry Hwang, an infant and his parents are washed ashore after a shipwreck, but a leopard kills the parents.

A gorilla, Kala (Phaedra Tillery), finds him, calls him Tarzan and takes him up as her own despite the objections of her mate, Kerchak (Michael D. Reed), leader of their family of gorillas.

Tarzan, played by Oliver Copaken Yellin as a boy and Jimmy Mason as a man, becomes a part of the family even though he knows he’s different from the others.

Things change for him with the arrival of a group of researchers, including Jane Porter (Jessica LaFever) and her father, Professor Porter (George Mauro).

Tarzan and Jane are increasingly attracted to each other. When it’s time for the expedition to leave, Tarzan is torn between going with her or staying with the only family he has known.

Much of the story is related through rock-flavored music and often repetitious lyrics by Phil Collins.

PAP artistic director Patrick Klein directs the fine cast with musical direction by Nick Kenrick and energetic, athletic choreography by Claire Alexander.

The set, with its many ropes for swinging, is by Klein and Nikolaj Sorensen. Costumes are by Patricia Tyler.

Although Brandie Larkin’s too loud sound design distorts most of the lyrics, most of the singers excel, especially LaFever and Mason. They also are convincing in their roles.

Running about two hours and 10 minutes with one intermission, the show was enthusiastically received at the Sept. 13 performance.

“Tarzan” will continue through Sept. 23 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit