Phil Collins has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a mantle full of Grammys.
Now, what he wants is a Tony.
"Desperately," he says. "I'm not kidding."
The 55-year-old musician hopes his score for Disney's lavish new musical "Tarzan," the classic story of an orphan raised by apes, is his ticket to Broadway's top trophy.
The show, opening tomorrow at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, stars "American Idol" alum Josh Strickland in the title role. The musical, which reportedly cost $15 million to stage, is based on the Mouse House's hit 1999 feature-length cartoon featuring Collins' Oscar-winning tune "You'll Be in My Heart."
"I didn't do this show for pats on the back," says Collins, whose career began in the group Genesis. "A Tony would be lovely."
World famous as a drummer and pop singer whose hits range from the silly "Sussudio" to the searing "In the Air Tonight," Collins has show tunes in his blood — as well as on his iPod. "My music taste is pretty wide," he says, adding that he listens to everything from Bruce Springsteen to the cast albums of "West Side Story" and "Wicked."
In 1964, he played the Artful Dodger in a London West End production of "Oliver!" That experience has informed work on his Broadway debut.
"It hasn't all been straight-ahead wonderful, but I've learned something I never knew how to do from 'Tarzan,' " he says. "I'd never written for other people to sing on stage and to tell a story."
Collins' stage score features five songs from the movie, nine new songs and several "musical doodles" (his term) to underscore the onstage action.
"All of it is mine," he says, adding that the song he is proudest of is the new composition "For the First Time." The duet, sung by Strickland and Jenn Gambatese, who plays his gal pal Jane Porter, celebrates their awakening love.
Before he was hired to do the movie, Collins was more "of a Superman guy than a Tarzan guy," he says. "I'd never read the book until I got the job." He has been thinking about making the leap to Broadway ever since "Tarzan" hit multiplexes.
"It's something that's been brewing for a long time," he says. "When the movie came out, we'd said we'd always do it. It's about finding out who you are and your place in the world."
This production features a book by David Henry Hwang ("M. Butterfly"), with direction and design by Bob Crowley. As composer, Collins has been "100% hands-on" throughout the creative workshops. "I was always [Jane's dad, Professor] Porter in the readings," he says.
Collins sees parallels between Tarzan and Jane and another classic duo: Romeo and Juliet. "It's about two people from two worlds who aren't supposed to be together," he says. "It's a good story."
And one that will be seen by lots of theatergoers. The only thing greener than the show's Kermit-colored jungle set is its box office. "Tarzan" has reportedly amassed an elephant-size $20 million advance.
Still, "Tarzan" won't be the last word — or note — from Collins, who has been going through a divorce during the creation of the show.
"I've bought an apartment in New York for a reason," he says, adding that he has spoken with several producers about future projects. "Disney and I aren't tied at the hip."
Whether audiences and reviewers respond enthusiastically to his music and the show, Collins is prepared to take it in stride. Ditto if that much-coveted Tony Award proves elusive.
"I'm a strong, confident lad," he says. "I've worked really hard. But I'm not holding my breath." Nor will he suffer the fate depicted in the Genesis tune "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." "I am not," he says, "going to the slaughter."