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Mary Mauer and Jake Przybyla as Jane and Tarzan.
They fly, they sing, they swing on ropes and vines. They even bounce on trampolines, but — most of all — they dance.
Owosso Community Players' musical version of the classic, 107- year-old magazine story written by Edgar Rice Burroughs is driven by dancers — close to 40 of them, in an ense mble of ingénue apes as young as fourth grader Isabella Sumner, sixth grader Megan Smith and as seasoned as Lansing’s own best character actor, Stephanie Banghart.
Credit the proprietors of Kim’s Dance Dynamics and Kathy’s School of Dance for most of this, but also choreographer Erica Duffield for seamlessly putting it all together.
It’s an old story. A child is lost in the jungle, feeling abandoned, taken in by gorillas. A human child becomes an ape-man, develops a sense of belonging with the apes and is faced with the reality that he may never quite fit in with his own kind.
Jake Przybyla is the boy-man Tarzan — lithe and nimble, fit enough to scramble with the best of his ape-brothers. He can both sing and act. His “Everything That I Am” solo near the end of the play is a show-stopper, a poignant musical soliloquy questioning everything.
This is followed by a powerfully emotional duet between Tarzan and his ape-mother Kala, portrayed by Twyla Birdsong, in which the bond between a loving mother and a grateful child brings tears to the eyes.
Kudos to Phil Collins for both music and lyrics and to a pit orchestra of fourteen instrumentalists conducted by Jillian Boots.
It would not be the Tarzan story, however, if there were no Jane. Mary Maurer is Jane, all proper and pretty, a smell-oddity to Tarzan who peeks and sniffs and tastes her, delicately, of course. Maurer’s rendition of Jane grew on me as the play progressed as she demonstrated Jane’s independence — a character with a mind of her own.
Kaled Kimerer is noteworthy as Terk, the heir apparent to Kerchak, Tarzan’s ape-father. He has swagger. He gets one’s attention.
Leah Collins portrays a mighty cougar, all strapped up with a flying harness that allows her to slink up and down trees. An uncredited gigantic Monarch butterfly came flitting in from time to time. Icing on the cake.
Owosso has a penchant for big musicals that invite collaboration from community groups and individuals. “Disney’s Tarzan” is no exception.
In addition to the 40 dancers and 14 instrumentalists previously mentioned, it took 13 people to build the set, another 32 to costume the cast, a flying crew of 6 and stage and rigging crews each with 4 members.
When all 40 of the young apes were on stage together, it was a magical dance extravaganza moment. Ballet, tap dancing, gymnastics, trampoline acrobatics and cartwheeling. Gorillas in the mist, flying through the air with the greatest of ease.
Owosso Community Players Through March 3 Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday, 3 p.m. Lebowsky Center 114 E Main St, Owosso (989) 723-4003 owossoplayers.com