'Tarzan' Closes Out FRT Season

Thursday 29, 2018

Northern Michigan University’s Forest Roberts Theatre is concluding its 2017-18 season with “Tarzan,” the Disney musical. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13-Saturday, April 14, and Thursday, April 19-Saturday, April 21, with 1 p.m. matinee performances April 14 and 21.

FRT will also present a modified performance of the musical geared toward children and adults who are on the autism spectrum or have sensory issues. FRT has partnered with the Theatre Development Fund in New York City to produce this “Theater for All” performance, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15.

In the musical, an infant boy is taken in and raised by gorillas after washing up on the shores of West Africa. He struggles with his animal upbringing clashing with his human instincts.

“There's the swinging from vine to vine, the romance and the singing, which is great,” said Director Shelley Russell. “The cast has marvelous voices. But, the real core of this thing is the joy you feel sitting in the audience. It's one of those shows that makes you want to swing through the jungle, ape dance for joy and celebrate our world.”

The cast of more than 30 performers is composed of NMU students and community members. Ethan Bott of Marquette plays the title role.

“Playing a character who is a human raised by gorillas really requires me to get out of my head and trust the body,” said Bott. “I almost have to forget how to be human and go into an animal mode. For instance, my director told me to think of English as a second language. Now that we are onstage and there is this great ensemble of actors interacting together as apes and giving their characters body, heart and soul, getting into this other world and mode of being feels almost natural.”

 “Tarzan” is being presented as part of FRT’s "green season" of re-purposed costumes. It includes highly technical elements, including flight. Three NMU football players are helping backstage as flight crew members.

“Developing these ape characters with the cast is very complicated,” said Russell. “The flying in the show requires coordination with flight crew, of course, but also costumes, set, sound and makeup. The costumes are made of all recycled fabric, and we've used a technique with fabric strips that we've had to invent to create this impression of fur. The result, I think, is beautiful and fun, but the process has required a tremendous amount of work from a large number of individuals.”

An opening night party is included with a ticket purchased for opening night, Friday, April 13, and immediately follows the show in the FRT lobby. It will feature food and beverages, music, a photo booth and a meet and greet with the cast and creative team.

Tickets are $15 for the public, $10 for students and $5 for NMU students. Tickets are available online at tickets.nmu.edu or at any NMU EZ Ticket outlet. Free admission to the sensory friendly performance is made possible through private donor support.

There will be a dramaturgical lobby display on the rainforest produced in partnership with NMU zoology and environmental science students. For more information on the event, contact the Forest Roberts Theatre Box Office at 227-2082 or via email at frtbox@gmail.com.

Jill Vermeulen
Student Writer

Director Shelley Russell and Devin Murphy, who plays Kerchak, leader of the gorillas, in the costume shop