Monthly Archives: June 2013

Tarzan The Musical: A Review

(Reposted from Thoughts in Kilobytes)

When Viva Atlantis Theatricals announced that it will stage Tarzan The Musical here in Manila, I merely shrugged and thought, “Okay, go ahead.” My interest was sparked more by the announcement on who was playing the role of Jane Porter, and later who shall don the Disney loincloth and swing from tree to tree, hollering ooooo ei oooooo ei oooooo ei oooooooooo.

The characters brought to life

Dan Domenech, a Broadway actor, was a great pick for the title role. Dan was superb in his portrayal of the feral character. He was funny, heart-warming, charming and yes, definitely built well for the part (I can hear women swooning left and right). Despite the role being very physical, he made swinging look so easy and sang as if he was just having a conversation with someone over coffee. Yet the ease with which he tackled the character didn’t take away any of the deeper emotions he had to convey. His scenes with his ape-mother Kala always brought that emotional pinch in one’s heart – whether they were happy or heavy with emotions. Dan and Ima Castro, who took on the role of Kala, were heartwarming to watch as they reminded us about the kind of love that transcends not just race but even linnaean classification.

945042_10151810147134505_811246080_nI did wonder how Dan will be able to successfully pull off the ape-talk but it turned out I was just wasting time in doing so. He knew the challenge of having to communicate half of the time in a language none of us knew, and he did a great job. He looked very comfortable being an ape man, and I’d say was even having fun doing so.

Fresh from her successful debut as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Rachelle Ann Go gets to play the nerdy Jane Porter who loves to say a mouthful. As if that wasn’t enough, she had to deliver her speaking lines with a British accent. Although she was always fond of speaking with an accent, maintaining it throughout the show was a different story. Not surprisingly though, she was able to pull it off and in such a charming way too. The new darling of Disney musicals was awesome in her portrayal of Tarzan’s love interest. Those kilometric lines delivered with just the right kind of wit, charm and humor belied the fact that this was only her second musical. As director Chari Arespacochaga puts it, Rachelle is indeed a great instinctive actress. Like Dan, Rachelle looked very comfortable and cute as a button as Jane.

Of course, most were curious as to how Dan and Rachelle will jell as they play out the love story between Tarzan and Jane. Well, let me tell you that the chemistry was very potent – whether they were being funny, confused or heartbroken. They definitely tickled me pink in that funny scene of their first meeting. And people said doing comedy was difficult. The two made it look like peanuts here. Then they made you feel the wonder and excitement of new love as they sang For The First Time. The kiss…yes, the kiss definitely took people by surprise when it happened, and made quite a number of hearts skip a bit, including mine.

Tarzan-and-Jane-2Ima as Kala and Calvin Millado as Kerchak were truly seasoned thespians who made us realize that man or ape, we all live and love no differently. Ima was exquisite in her portrayal of a wife and mother who was torn between her husband Kerchak’s wishes and her child’s feelings. She made me think about the struggles of a mother between protecting her child and facing the difficult task of telling him the painful truth.

Calvin as Kerchak was convincing as the leader of the pack as he protects his family and makes everyone realize the atrocities that man can do to satisfy his wants and needs. His tough love when it came to Tarzan is something any father (human or otherwise) can relate to.

Playing Tarzan’s best friend Terk was Jeffrey Hidalgo, another singer who successfully crossed over from pop to theater. I really enjoyed his Trashin’ In The Camp. He was amusing as the quite obnoxious ape who had always been there for his friend since the start.

Arnel Carrion as Clayton was also hilarious and convincingly irritating as the foil to the goody-goody tandem of Jane and her lovable father Professor Porter, played by yet another theater veteran Eugene Villaluz. Eugene was endearing as the gentle and understanding father to his vivacious daughter. I truly loved his scenes with Rachelle.

Adding a twist to the costume and set

I have heard quite a few people say that the set was not as dreamy as that of The Little Mermaid but I’d say it’s not suppose to be up for comparison. The stage lit up when the scene called for it, as it did when Jane made her first appearance as she sang Waiting For This Moment. There were enough flying and swinging to keep the kids and kids at heart entertained and the set was good enough to bring a scene to life and yet not be a source of distraction.

The bahag is a nice touch to add a little twist to the usual image of Tarzan in a loincloth that we’ve come to love. I must say though that I love Jane’s classic get-ups more than those that I’ve seen in other Tarzan musicals elsewhere. And thank goodness Dan’s wig made him a gorgeous Tarzan. Glad to see the wig that Rachelle wore for her first pictorial as Jane was replaced with one that turned her into that carefree but still well put together woman.

I also loved the costume and makeup of the gorillas, by the way.

Getting the message across

Tarzan-and-JaneI remember clearly what director Chari replied when I asked her why people should watch Tarzan. “Ultimately the people should come because it’s so entertaining and it’s a beautiful story about family. It’s a visual treat and there’s a lot of flying but over and above all, what resonated in me when I read it is that the story says that a family could be a family you were born in, the family that raises you, the family you choose. That covers everything, right? It’s a great message done in a spectacular way, and with beautiful music. That’s all the reasons to go watch it – and of course Dan and Rachelle.”

Did it happen for me? Yes.

The tug whenever Dan and Ima interact erased the distinction between man and ape. They brought out familiar emotions that spring from loving and caring for another. Calvin’s booming voice and imposing presence couldn’t have sent his message any clearer: Family always comes first. You can feel his struggle to keep his family safely together and stand by his principles and beliefs. “Animals kill for survival. Man kills for sheer pleasure.” That message he delivered in a way that reverberated in my mind.

While the mother-and-son scenes between Tarzan and Kala were mostly emotionally-charged, the father-and-daughter relationship between Jane and Professor Porter was always sprinkled with humor and an easy-going kind of affection. Eugene and Rachelle were a delight to watch as a father and daughter whose common interests forged a close relationship.

When Tarzan and Jane meet, and their association turned their worlds around, the contrast between the dynamics of their families couldn’t have been more evident. Whereas Tarzan had chosen to stay to prove his love for his adoptive family, Professor Porter was ready to let go of his daughter if it meant her happiness. I will always remember that part when Jane expressed regret in not teaching Tarzan about love, and Professor Porter gently pointing out that perhaps it was he who was teaching it to her.

The chemistry between Dan and Rachelle led me to feel elated when Tarzan decided to go with Jane, and then later felt distraught when he chose to stay after all and Jane eventually had to say goodbye and ship back to England with her father. Both were very effective in weaving around us the magic of falling in love, the sacrifices it entails and the joy of finally finding the one you chose to build a family with.

Ultimately, the concept of family was summed up in the words: Here I have everything. Here you are home. Tarzan made me remember that wherever you feel love, wherever you feel you belong, then you are with family. It also reminded me that a family will always be ready to put each others’ feelings and safety before their own, no matter how painful.

I must admit that I wasn’t really a Tarzan fan before. I haven’t seen the movie (or must have forgotten that I did) but I am glad I watched this one and made me appreciate my family all over again.

Ooo ooo ee eh ooo!

(You still have the chance to swing by the Meralco Theater and catch the last two weeks of Tarzan The Musical. For tickets, call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661 or 673 / 892-7078 / 840-1187. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph. Check out www.vivaatlantistheatricals.com for more details.)

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Rachelle Ann Go: The Woman Behind Jane

Jane Porter was depicted in the Disney movie Tarzan, where the Broadway Musical was based on, as an intelligent and beautiful young woman albeit somewhat talkative. Yet she was charming and proper, an art-lover and one who is not afraid to venture into the jungle to draw the wildfire. She was a mixture of fluff and strength, and possessed a charm that tamed the man-ape that was Tarzan.

4tarzanRachelle Ann Go this time swims out of the ocean and swings into the jungle as Jane and changes Tarzan’s life in the Manila staging of Tarzan The Musicale running from June 14 to 29 at the Meralco Theater. She is excited to take on another Disney character that is more mature than the little mermaid Ariel.

The character does not digress much from the woman who shall breathe life into the role. Just as Jane is not afraid to venture into the jungle, Rachelle never stopped pushing her limits. Her years in showbiz saw her transform from a singer to a total performer, and then some. She does not hesitate to take on challenges that most may be unwilling to venture into. She never stopped growing as an artist, making sure she learns new things so she can offer more to her audience. Rachelle’s successful theater debut attests that her artistry does not end on TV and the concert stage.

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Challenges are nothing new to Rachelle anyway. In her more than nine years in the business, she has gone through a lot and had come out stronger and wiser each time. She has experienced the beauty and not so of this highly competitive business and has chosen to be true to herself and her craft. She shares Jane’s intelligence as she smartly navigated herself through the bumps and turns in her career. Despite the deluge of new singers and the industry-crippling problem of piracy, she has managed to hold her ground and even make significant inroads that have inspired new and established colleagues. Her incredible voice may have been her vehicle to get into the business but there was more to her that brought her to where she is now. She is well known by her colleagues as a hardworking and highly professional person, always prepared and enthusiastic to work. She is also known to want to keep learning and doing new things. She is well loved because of her humility despite her numerous accolades and achievements, her generosity in sharing her talents and blessings, and her sincerity to inspire others.

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Always cheerful and easy-going, she is the type you can easily be comfortable with, can laugh with and can just be your true self with. She can make you feel at home with her endless stories and funny ways, and yet she can be all serious and give you really sound advice. And if you think the glitz and glamour of the business had rubbed off on her, you can think again. She continues to be that humble person that she was before entering showbiz, lives in the same house she grew up in, and is kept grounded by her family who continues to live the simple and unassuming life. Despite her simplicity, she definitely is no plain Jane. She knows how to have fun but she isn’t a party person. She loves spending time with friends but she values family time so much more. She could go to numerous showbiz events and hobnob with the big names who only have praises for her, and yet she chooses to live a quiet private life surrounded by people who truly care for her. She looks all grown up when dolled up and can give you a mean performance when she gets on that stage but once she steps out of the limelight, she reverts back to the same ol’ Shin who looks no older than a 15-year old when devoid of make-up and can make everything okay with a smile or her child-like giggle.

Just like Jane, Rachelle’s charm and sense of humor have captivated quite a number of men (neanderthal and otherwise). Unlike Jane though, she has yet to find her real-life Tarzan who will sweep her off her feet. She has realized a thing or two about the ways of love and the sting of heartache, and had to learn the hard way how to deal with breakups where she had to endure public scrutiny. Romance Blvd may have paved a tough road for her thus far but she came off every wrong turn much stronger and wiser, and had helped her evolve into a better person and a deeper performer.

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Jane and Rachelle are both women who went through changes in their lives that added to their strength and character. Many have no idea how tough Rachelle had become through the years. Disappointments, heartaches, trials…these are just temporary setbacks where she draws strength and wisdom from, and then move on and seek better opportunities. Her strong faith has given her that confidence to live life the way she believes is right and be able to inspire people to do the same.

It will be interesting to see how Rachelle brings to life a Jane that is marked with her own personal touch. She has said she has learned so much from Jane. Well, Rachelle, I think Jane can learn as much from you too.

Rachelle joins a powerful cast that include Broadway actor Dan Domenech who plays Tarzan, Ima Castro as Kala, Calvin Millado as Kerchak, Eugene Villaluz as Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and Jeffrey Hidalgo as Turk. Chari Arespacochaga directs.

Tarzan The Musical goes on stage at the Meralco Theater from June 14-29. For tickets, call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661 or 673 / 892-7078 / 840-1187. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph. Check out www.vivaatlantistheatricals.com for more details.

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Tarzan The Musical: Shaping Up To Be A Fabulous Treat

4tarzanWhat will happen if you have a Broadway actor, a fierce diva, and a host of veteran and young talented thespians? Then what you get is a jungle-full of music and excitement that will keep your emotions swinging in every direction. From June 14 to 29, Disney’s most loved ape man, Tarzan, hollers his way at the Meralco Theater, courtesy of Viva Atlantis Theatricals Inc.

Tarzan the Stage Musical, based on the 1999 Disney film and adapted from the story “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is topbilled by Broadway actor Dan Domenech as the feral Tarzan. Turning Tarzan’s world around as Jane Porter is pop star Rachelle Ann Go, whose first attempt at theater via Disney’s The Little Mermaid was a critical success. Their journey will be brought to life with the help of Calvin Millado as Ketchak, Ima Castro as Kala, Eugene Villaluz as Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and Jeffrey Hidalgo as Terk.

945042_10151810147134505_811246080_nDomenech admits that playing the role of Tarzan is demanding physically. “We are doing run throughs right now. We’re walking around like apes. That takes a lot of work. It’s very athletic. I’ll be doing a lot of flying in the show and it takes a lot of energy out of me.” He is quick to say though that despite the arduous rehearsals, they are all having a good time. Another challenge for him is effectively pulling off the scenes where he gets into ape talk. “It’s difficult to do that and to also feel what you’re supposed to be feeling. It is easy when you’re speaking any kind of language to get into a conversation with someone, and feel what you’re saying to them and feel what they’re saying to you.” The challenge, according to him, is in speaking an unfamiliar language and yet still establishing that connection with the audience.

Despite flying in just days before rehearsal started, Domenech feels at home with the cast. “Oh, it’s great. You know, it’s the same as any other show in any country I’ve ever visited, every place that I’ve been, theatre to theatre, has the same life so I feel very at home here.”

intvwHe has been so immersed in rehearsals the past weeks to have much time to explore the Philippines. “My schedule has not allowed me really to experience a lot of things I’d like to experience here so far while the show is on but so far it’s been great, you know. The people, they’re great. The food…oooh. The food!” On his first week here he tried all kinds of Filipino food, including the dreaded balut. “But I had to stop because I’m wearing a bahag so I can’t eat lechon everyday like I wanted.”

If playing Tarzan has its challenges, playing Jane requires Go to maintain a British accent in all her speaking parts. “As suggested by my director, I started speaking to my family with an accent. I know it drove them crazy,” she laughed.

She remains unfazed by the challenge of proving herself again in this musical. “I guess there is pressure but in a good way. I don’t want to compare it with Little Mermaid. I’m really just enjoying this. Jane’s character is different from Ariel. I love her character. She’s more mature. I don’t think about surpassing the success that The Little Mermaid earned.”

danshin07Domenech and Go only met for the first time when rehearsals started but felt at ease with each other not long after. This made taking on Tarzan and Jane easier to do. Admittedly though, at first Go felt a little concerned that her co-actor might have such high expectations from a newbie like her, but his good nature helped quell that feeling. “Dan is very professional. He is such a talented guy. When he sings, it’s so effortless. He is also a nice guy, and that made it easy to work with him. He is an amazing person,” Go said.

The New York-based actor returned the compliment. “She’s an amazing person too. She’s not hard to get along with. She’s awesome. She makes me look good. I don’t have to do much work. It’s all her,” he laughs. “We’re having a good time.”

Ace director Chari Arespacochaga takes pride in the talent and professionalism of her actors. She says of her two lead stars, “Dan and Rachelle, they are very professional. They are both amazing. They have good chemistry and they are very generous to each other so their scenes are really great. And you know we keep our atmosphere very light. It’s serious work but it’s a light and warm atmosphere and we take care of each other. I prefer to work that way because eventually I will leave the show to them and they have to take care of the show.”

261700_10151815490404505_1754453204_nHaving kids in the cast can be a bit of a challenge, Arespacochaga admitted, “But the kids are very talented. When you see them, you want to applaud for them.”

Children of all ages are bound to enjoy Tarzan The Stage Musical, what with a twist that Arespacocha and her team added a local flavor to spice up the production. “Disney is very open to you creating it your own way, treating it your own way. Our spin on it is our jungle. It’s tribal Philippines. That’s our own twist on it and they love it. They would rather that you do not do it the way it’s been done before,” Arespacochaga disclosed. It would also be interesting to see Tarzan donning our indigenous bahag designed by no less than Eric Pineda, instead of the traditional loincloth that the character is associated with.

You know you’ve got a good show when all the elements are coming together wonderfully. The flying, the swinging on ropes, the incredible costumes and the heart-warming music made specifically for the Broadway musical by singer/songwriter Phil Collins make up all the right ingredients for a fabulous show. But as Arespacocha puts it, “Ultimately the people should come because it’s so entertaining and it’s a beautiful story about family. It’s a visual treat and there’s a lot of flying but over and above all, what resonated in me when I read it is that the story says that a family could be a family you were born in, the family that raises you, the family you choose. That covers everything, right? It’s a great message done in a spectacular way, and with beautiful music. That’s all the reasons to go watch it – and of course Dan and Rachelle.”

So bring the whole family and explore the jungle this side of earth as “Tarzan” swings by from June 14-29 at the Meralco Theater. For tickets, call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661 or 673 / 892-7078 / 840-1187. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph.

(This article is also posted at Broadwayworld.com)

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