Re: TARZAN: Anyone Going to See This?
On Disney Theatricals and the Failure of Tarzan:
Beauty and the Beast is
so-so, a great film adapted with too sloppy a hand. For the most part, the new material just doesn't live up to that which was ported over from the film and there are lyrics that sorely miss the touch of Howard Ashman. However, the staging of the original production proved that a good production can makes it seem more than it is and certainly excellent performers can elevate the material beyond its limitations.The Lion King
, in terms of its book in particular, is even more flawed. Much of the added and reworked material lends a dynamic to the score that was only hinted at in the film and the weakest parts of the score are the new contributions by Elton John and Tim Rice. But here, Julie Taymor's conceptulasation and staging elevate the material far beyond what exists on the page. It is an astounding theatrical accomplishment for all its dramatic shortcomings.
So to get back to Dramaluvergurl92's statement: Disney Theatricals has produced average musicals that generally come across better than they are because of the way they are staged. This is the expectation I had of Tarzan
. After the fact, it turns out Tarzan
is really no worse than The Lion King
on the page; it's actually even a bit better. But on the stage, it was a disaster. Disney made a poor choice in allowing designer Bob Crowley direct the show. The man has created some lovely set designs, but this was not one of them - and there was no outside eye to guide his vision, which I think was a huge problem for the show, just as he, because of his inexperience, could not offer guidance to Phil Collins and David Henry Hwang and push them to accomplish better work.
I think this was a huge part of Tarzan
's failure to fly with Broadway audiences. The show played in the wrong theatre, with a poorly designed set, misguidedly constructed to show the "nuts and bolts" of its workings, in a traditional theatre space when it seems that the most interesting way to stage it is in an arena set-up with an environmental staging. The Dutch production moved towards this kind of set-up and it worked phenomenally well. Now if we could get a revisionist mainstem staging of the show in this style, with the writers on board to patch up some of the details, the show could be a theatrical success even if it will probably never be a refined and profound show dramatically.
Is it really
the selection of the film
that is the flaw here? There may be more obvious choices in the Disney canon, but it's not as if Tarzan
is fundamentally unstageable. I think what's being forgotten here is that while Disney brings the money, it's a corporate body and not the person responsible for the adaptation or the staging. If selection
is the fault, surely the choice that Disney should be making more carefully has to do with the key people who are bringing the adaptation to the stage. Choosing Bob Crowley, as mentioned above, was really the undoing of this property as a piece of theatre and it could be argued that choosing Francesca Zambello caused an equal number of problems insofar as her ideas for staging The Little Mermaid
are concerned. On the other hand, take a look at how Julie Taymor transforms something that is not particularly meaty into a feast for the senses. Considering the quality for which Disney Theatricals is prepared to settle when it comes to the respective books and scores for their shows, it is in these choices - those that take the show from the page to the stage - that Disney needs to make more carefeully considered decisions.