Review: Swing on by to see ‘Tarzan’

By Patrick Tindall
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Image Courtesy of Performance Riverside

Audiences will swing into the theater for Riverside City College’s newest production.

Performance Riverside teams up with RCC to bring forth their ambitious rendition of the famous Broadway show, Disney’s “Tarzan.” Fans of the 1999 movie will absolutely fall in love with the beautiful music, the inspirational story as well as the fabulous actors and dancers.

Set deep in a lush, tropical jungle, a baby Tarzan travels with his parents to a new land. The boat is hit by a storm and the family is suddenly shipwrecked on an unfamiliar beach where they encounter dangerous animals. Tarzan’s parents are sadly killed by a leopard and baby Tarzan is left an orphan. He is then found by a curious gorilla named Kala and is taken home to be raised in the jungle, among the gorillas.

Fans of the movie or the Broadway play will love the effort put in by Performance Riverside to bring this uplifting musical to the RCC campus.

This adaptation of Tarzan features professional actors as well as RCC students. Professional actor Richard Bermudez embodies Tarzan with his masterful acting and was perfectly cast to fit the role. In addition, professional actress Sami Nye plays Jane and her singing voice and English accent perfectly encapsulate the character.

RCC alumus A.J. Raphael does an amazing job playing Terk and his vocal portrayal is almost indistinguishable from the movie character’s.

The set design resembles that of the Broadway production and includes moveable ramps and set pieces which add texture and life to the lush jungle landscape.

The costumes were fabulous and added some much-needed movement to the furry gorillas, albeit a bit costume-y. Upon realizing that the actors are depicting fictional ape characters who talk and dance in a make-believe jungle, this is all forgiven.

Music is played by a large orchestra and utilizes the lush symphony’s harmonics to add a cinematic element to the Broadway favorites such as Phil Collin’s “Son of Man” and “Strangers Like Me.”

The expert prop designers utilized many elements to add depth to the show such as Tarzan swinging on vines with aid from suspended wires as well as Jane being followed across the stage slowly by a six-foot spider with moving legs.

The dance numbers are expertly handled by choreographer Carlos Mendoza, as well as the many dancers from Performance Riverside, and included fun, rhythmic and energetic performances to scenes such as when the gorillas from the nest invade the researcher’s camp and destroy their belongings set to Phil Collin’s and *NSYNC’s “Doo Bad Shi Doo.”

If you’re a fan of late ’90s nostalgia then you will fall in love with this show all over again and it’s message of the power of love, the profoundness of identity and what is truly the definition of home.

Performance Riverside and RCC presents: “Tarzan” is playing Feb. 1-12. Box office hours will be from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Tickets are available at performanceriverside.org.