'Tarzan The Musical' has simple script, vivid visuals

Disney's "Tarzan The Musical," which opened this week at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre, offers a "Me Tarzan, You Jane" reduction of the complex themes of Edgar Rice Burroughs's novels.

The show falters due to the simplicity of David Henry Hwang's script, but there's wonder to be had whenever Tarzan and his ape-family are airborne. Josh Strickland, the hunky "American Idol" alum, makes his Broadway debut as Tarzan, swinging in from the balcony and across the stage on elaborate harness and bungee-cord equipment. He has a voice that both rocks with the best of the ensemble - especially Chester Gregory II in the role of Tarzan's ape-buddy, Terk - and blends with the soprano voice of Jenn Gambatese, as the prim, petite Jane.

Composer-lyricist Phil Collins has added new songs to his 1999 film score of Disney's animated "Tarzan," including a touching duet, "Sure As Sun Turns to Moon," for Shuler Hensley and Merle Dandridge as Tarzan's jungle parents. Director-designer Bob Crowley's staging, with its aerial aerobics, flying flora and fauna, and laser-effect lighting continues the trend of blurring the boundaries between circus, athletics, and musical theater. Grade: B-

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