You guessed it: “Tarzan,” the new Disney musical, is chockful of actors who swing around the theater on artificial vines. Talk about easy calls! But, then, there aren’t many surprises in this leaden stage version of the 1999 cartoon version of the 1912 novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs about a shipwrecked foundling raised by apes. The only surprising thing about “Tarzan,” in fact, is that so much of it is so tiresome….
Culprit No. 1 is Phil Collins, whose score, some of which is new and some recycled from the movie, is a plodding bore, monotonously paced and unenlightened by the faintest glimmer of wit….
Culprit No. 2 is David Henry Hwang, the author of “M. Butterfly” and a notorious purveyor of PC. His book is a seemingly unending string of ham-handed Disney-style public-service announcements for tolerance, lightly sprinkled with flat punch lines. Jane: “Tarzan’s not a gorilla, he’s a human being. Honestly, that’s not even his real family.” Daddy: “Do you know of any families that aren’t real, my dear?” I bet you didn’t know “Tarzan” was a parable about non-traditional families, did you?…
Herman Wouk’s 1953 stage adaptation of the last part of his blockbuster World War II novel is a nuts-and-bolts courtroom drama that all but plays itself–if you let it. Jerry Zaks, familiar on Broadway for his stagings of such musicals as “Little Shop of Horrors” and last year’s short-lived revival of “La Cage aux Folles,” evidently thinks otherwise, for he has directed the first act of this thoroughly grim play as if it were an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes,” pumping up the occasional moments of comic relief and encouraging the cast to resort to noisy caricature….
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