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Disney Productions selects CCA to perform ‘Tarzan' musical

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Center for Creative Arts students will audition this week for Disney’s “Tarzan the Musical,” set to take the stage at CCA in January. From left are senior Bobby Burkich, senior Kiona Reese, junior Brittni Rhodes, senior Damon Gillespie and CCA Director of Musical Theatre Jason Whitehead. Photo by Katie Ward

Disney Theatrical Productions is partnering with Center for Creative Arts Musical Theatre Department to be one of the first high schools in the nation to premiere the Disney musical “Tarzan.”

Forty CCA students will audition for 25 spots Nov. 3-4. The cast should be finalized by Nov. 7 and the first rehearsal will follow Nov. 15. Center for Creative Arts students will perform the musical on CCA’s stage in February.

“Professional theaters have done it, but in terms of high schools we are one of a small amount,” said CCA Director of Musical Theatre Jason Whitehead. “Knowing no other theater in town or in the state has done this, it’s a nice opportunity. The pressure is starting to set in for the students.”

CCA’s full-length production will be built from scratch, involving dozens of students in the cast, production crews, set construction and costume design. Performances in Chattanooga will help Disney representatives evaluate the revised material as it is prepared for general release in 2012 or 2013.

“I was speechless when I found out we would do Tarzan,” said CCA musical theater major and baritone Bobby Burkich. “It is real exciting that we get this opportunity.”

Seniors Damon Gillespie and Kiona Reese are equally excited. Damon said “it’s a great show to go out with as a senior. It’s incredible.” Kiona “think[s] ‘Tarzan’ will be a lot of fun. It will be totally challenging.”

The CCA cast will be composed of six human characters and the rest of the cast will play apes. Whitehead said those in the role of apes will be challenged by jumping around on their hands and knees. He said he is working with a crew to create a four-foot wide path so that Tarzan can fly in the production.

“I think the first time we meet adult Tarzan in the musical will be pretty spectacular,” said Whitehead. “It’s exciting to be a part of the creation process. Our production will be something you haven’t seen because its more exciting on stage than in a cartoon.”

He said the music, which will contain songs like “Two Worlds” and “You’ll be in My Heart,” will be equally challenging to perform.

The musical is based on the novel “Tarzan and the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the 1999 Disney animated feature film. The musical adaptation opened on Broadway in 2006.

Whitehead said the basic plot line begins with Tarzan as a baby and his parents shipwrecked on an island. When his parents pass away, a female ape rescues him and brings Tarzan to live among the apes. When botanists visit the island, Tarzan meets Jane and she teaches him the English language.

The CCA show will run two hours and 30 minutes with two acts and 17 scenes. The CCA auditorium seats 1,000.

IF YOU GO

• Disney’s “Tarzan” will be performed Feb. 16, 17 and 18 in CCA’s auditorium, at 1301 Dallas Road in North Chattanooga. Tickets will be sold in January. Center for Creative Arts is soliciting broad community support. Interested parties are asked to contact CCA Fine Arts chair Don Andrews at andrews_d@hcde.org or at 209-5942 regarding funding and sponsorship opportunities. To learn more, visit the CCA website and click on “CCA selected for Disney Tarzan project” at the bottom of the page.

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