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A king of jungle and stage

The first musical version of Tarzan has swung onto Broadway.

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Eight times each week, Tarzan lets out a yell from the rear of Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City. Then he swings on a vine over the heads of the audience to the stage. Appearing live in a theater is a new adventure for the orphan boy brought up by a tribe of apes in Africa.

There are many ways to tell a story, but for some people, the most exciting storytelling take place on a stage with live actors who bring the characters to life.

The author of the Tarzan tales, Edgar Rice Burroughs, first brought Tarzan from his imagination to the printed page nearly 100 years ago. After many books, nearly 40 films, and countless radio and television programs, the Disney Co. turned the story into the animated cartoon movie, "Tarzan," in 1999.

Many actors have played Tarzan, but Josh Strickland is the first to play him in a Broadway musical. Mr. Strickland is appearing as a professional actor for the first time. He was a contestant on "American Idol" and sings well, but he had to compete against other actors to win the part.

"Tarzan" begins when Tarzan becomes an orphan because his parents are killed after a shipwreck off the coast of Africa. A mother ape, who has lost her child, raises him as her own. Tarzan knows he is different from his ape playmates. Even though he is not as large or as strong as they are, he can plan ahead and think up solutions to the challenges of the jungle.

In the musical. we see Tarzan at three different ages. First we meet the baby Tarzan - represented by a shadow puppet. Strickland plays the adult Tarzan.

Two actors - Daniel Manche, who is 13 years old, and Alex Rutherford, 12 - alternate the part of Tarzan as a child. There are two actors for one part because the show is performed eight times a week, and young actors are required to keep up with their schoolwork, even when they're appearing in a play. They must attend school or, as Daniel and Alex do, study backstage with a tutor.

After the actors were chosen, the cast worked for 12 weeks in rehearsals. This was longer than usual because the actors had to learn to move naturally in the air on special equipment as well as memorize their lines and songs.

How a play is put together

As members of the audience, we see only the actors. But it takes a team to help them tell the story.


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