OnStage St. Louis Critic
As a Disney fanatic I was excited to see Tarzan on the roster for this season. And when I saw it was going to be performed in ASL, I was already planing my road trip. I went to college just across the river so I know the town and art community. I was intrigued to see how this company would make these 'two worlds one family'.
The pre-show education was perfect. A trophy case was filled with character descriptions and basic signs that were helpful for the deaf and hearing audience. A special shout out to the two volunteer ushers who ask me how to sign certain words after seeing that I could sign. It was beautiful to see theater staff being attentive to all the guest. The audience was a mix of season ticket holders, parents with young children (thankfully most sat on an aisle seat for quick exit as there were a few tantrums during the show), and a few signers. The production was in collaboration with Quincy University's interpreters training program.
The stage deck was a colorful, but not distracting, jungle mural. The proscenium stage was covered in moss to stretch the forest into the audience. Platforms played the parts of trees for the actors to climb. I have to say I was most impressed with the zip line. The last time I saw this show was at the Muny in St. Louis and I fell in love with adult Tarzan's entrance. Well done Joseph Harris and company.
Standouts of the cast were Kala (Jeri Conboy, voice by Natalie Clark) and Kerchak (Aren Williams, voice by Dayton Job), Young Tarzan (Joey Engelmeyer, voice by Semachiah Bounds), Porter (Max Miller, signed by Michaela Brehe), Jane (Allison Hustson, signed by Taylor McCollough) and Tarzan (Camden Scifres, voiced by Andrew Arnold). The cast was rounded out by 'jungle spirits' that would sign certain parts and helped keep the tempo of the music visual. They helped when the signs got lost and weren't visible. I enjoyed their costumes (Janae Lafleur) of flowing green material.
Two of my favorite scenes were 'Son Of Man' and Jane explaining names to Tarzan. 'Son of Man' was a great ensemble number that showed off everyone in the cast. The first meeting of Jane and Tarzan was done so well. It was charming and warm and received a lot of laughs, I still chuckle at Tarzan saying/signing 'o I c' mimicking Jane.
I can say that the ASL was clear and understandable from my seat about 3/4th of the way back. The sign choices were strong and added to the storytelling. There were also deaf culture references with how to get someone attention and signed only lines. Jane Meirose was the interpreter lead.
I wish this show would have run longer then one weekend. Maybe for Quincy Community Theatre's next production? A theatre and ASL fan can only hope.