Tarzan, Lord of the Bungee-Jumping Apes

By Harry Haun
11 May 2006

Phil Collins; Josh Strickland; Jenn Gambatese; Shuler Hensley; Bob Crowley; Chester Gregory II; Merle Dandridge; David Henry Hwang; Stephen Schwartz; James Marsden; Alan Menken.
photo by Aubrey Reuben
So this is the way the season ends—to play fast and loose with old T. S. Eliot—not with a bang but with an “AAAAAHHHHH - ah - a - AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH - ah - a - AAAAHHHH!”

That was just the audience speaking, too—a run-ragged band of Tony nominators and first-nighters reaching the finishline of the '05-'06 Broadway season May 10 with Tarzan.
The last gesture of the season was romantic and sweeping. Josh Strickland scooped up Jenn Gambatese in his arms—he being Tarzan, she being Jane—and sailed off into the Richard Rodgers rafters and a happily-ever-after blackout. After a respectable pause, lighting designer Natasha Katz hit the light switch hard, bathing the open stage in brilliant light that enhanced the almost glo-green vines surrounding it on three sides.
The large cast soon rushed forth to take their bows—those that could, anyway—while nine simian-suited actors boing-boinged about happily above them in the available air-space on bungee ropes. Then—most bizarrely of all—suits infiltrated the loincloths and leopard skins: the creative team starting with Phil Collins, who supplied the songs (15 in all, 10 more than he wrote for the 1999 Disney animated feature), and Bob Crowley, who directed and designed the show, throwing cost-cutting caution to the four winds.
It was Disney's dime, but no one would say how hefty a coin that was—from Robert A. Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, on down. “It’s not about money—it’s about the talent,” he said, spinning away. “Bob did a great job, Phil did a great job, they all did. We had worked with Bob before [doing the Elton John Aida], and he deserved the shot. Not only did he rise to the occasion, he exceeded our expectations.” Ben Brantley, in The Paper of Record, placed the figure at “a reported $12-15 million,” but he didn’t report who reported it. Variety actually raises that number to $15-20 million.