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‘Tarzan’ takes to the Playhouse stage
Tarzan
Young Tarzan, played by Joseph Masson, swings on the legs of another ape during rehearsal for "Tarzan" at the Cumming Playhouse. The production runs through June 22. - photo by Micah Green

If you’re going

The Cumming Playhouse, 101 School St., presents “Tarzan” at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday through June 22. Tickets are $15 on Thursdays and $25 on Friday-Sunday. They can be purchased online at www.playhousecumming.com or by calling (770) 781-9178.

CUMMING — Luckily for Austin Collins, he works at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville.

The 29-year-old, who is employed in the private school’s information technology department, said he took advantage of some military-style fitness training through his employer in preparation for his leading role in the Cumming Playhouse’s current production of “Tarzan.”

“This is a very physically-demanding show, so to help me get ready for it … I had some of our sergeant majors at the academy get me in the gym and train me because, being a computer guy, I’m not physically fit,” Collins said. “I could maybe do like three, four push-ups before. Now I’ve put on quite a bit of muscle mass for this show.”

Physical fitness was important for the entire cast since the musical features loads of high-energy, tribal-style dancing.

“It’s a very exciting show,” said Deborah Marciniak, who plays one of the apes. “It has intense choreography and we have something that other shows don’t have.”

That something is an aerial silk, used by three of the actors to simulate the classic jungle vine swinging that has become almost synonymous with “Tarzan.”

Marciniak’s son, 14-year-old Jonathan, is one of three performers who spent several weeks being trained on the aerial silks by Cirque Freaks, an Alpharetta-based gym that focuses on high-flying devices, such as those used by the popular performance group Cirque du Soleil.

Director Neva Garrett also recruited young gymnasts to incorporate tumbling into the dance routines in order to create a show that was unique to the playhouse.

“It is different than some of the other typical musical theater-type shows,” she said. “It’s high energy, it’s heartwarming and it’s fun.”

Based on the 1999 Disney film of the same name, the show was created for the live stage in 2006.

Locally, it is being produced by Mello-Drama Productions and began a three-week run on Thursday.

The tale tracks the life of Tarzan, a human boy raised among apes after his parents are killed.

Tarzan must come to terms with the conflict of staying with the family of apes he has always known or joining others like him after he meets Jane, a pretty English naturalist.

Despite its many animal characters, Garrett said audiences won’t find any furry costumes on stage. 

“We went with a tribal theme [to distinguish the ape characters],” she said. “I wasn’t going to make anybody walk around in a fur suit, especially in the summer, so I went with … the tribal representation.”

While the 1999 film was animated, Garrett said the live production is far from “cartoonish,” offering something for audience members both young and old.  

“[The show explores] that dynamic of where do I belong? What am I really?” she said. “That’s the struggle that Tarzan has as he’s moving along.

“When most people think of ‘Tarzan,’ they probably think of apes and a big, strong man. You don’t think of the array of emotions that must have happened the first time he saw another human. But that’s really what the show focuses on.

“It’s very, very rich in relationships. It’s very deep and, frankly, human.”