Saturday, October 25, 2014

Students go wild for ‘Tarzan’

The Alluvion Stage Company wraps up the Liberty theater season in the jungle through May 12

Alluvion — Current Liberty students, alumni and other theater professionals combine forces to produce a high-flying show. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

The stage of Liberty University was transformed into an elaborate set for “Tarzan” as members of the cast transported the audience into a different world through scenes of action, love and acceptance. Rehearsal began for “Tarzan” Feb. 8, with the show’s opening performance hitting the Tower Theater April 12.

“The fact that we are doing a Disney show and premiering it in Central Virginia is huge because we have people who aren’t connected to Liberty at all who follow us now,” show director Linda Cooper said. “It really is a huge recruiting tool.”

“Tarzan” will be performed under the Alluvion Stage Company, the professional branch of Liberty’s Theatre Arts Department.

According to Cooper, under Alluvion, professional actors, movie directors and choreographers were brought to Liberty to help the cast prepare for opening night. One of the play’s flight directors came to Liberty straight from the Broadway show “Wicked.” “Tarzan” was also part of an apprentice program at Liberty, which offers the area’s high school students a chance to hold 8-10 cast positions.

“To be part of a team that gets to share something about humanity and about the Lord and about His heart … ‘Tarzan’ has a lot of that, and it’s just beautiful,” Kelli Overymyer, who plays Kala, said.

“Tarzan” follows the story of an orphan who was taken under the care of gorillas and raised as an animal. His first encounter with humans changed his life drastically, and according to Cooper, the story is a demonstration of two very different worlds meeting.

Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“One theme is the choice between moral responsibility to a community and selfish desire, which I think relates to everyone,” Cooper said. “Even though this is seen as a story for youth, I think this relates to adults very much.”

The cast of “Tarzan” is transformed to convey a band of gorillas communicating through animalistic sounds and actions. According to Taamu Wuya, who plays Kerchak, this task demanded many hours of research.

“We want the audience to see living, breathing animals, to be walking in their environment that’s like their home,” Wuya said.

Tarzan and Jane’s chemistry was brought to the stage, and according to junior Natalie Cleek, who plays Jane, the combination of these two characters was the act of joining two vastly different forms of communication.

“I think the audience is going to learn (that) we all communicate in different ways, and how to best communicate with someone,” Cleek said. “You have to learn their (method of) communication, not force your own on them.”

Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

According to Cleek, Cooper brings a creative and unique twist to the play, making the gorillas almost human and giving the humans animalistic qualities.

“(Tarzan) brings a lot of strength to the stage,” Jeff Sundheimer, who plays Tarzan, said. “He is an example of what it means to take responsibility over pleasure. He chooses to do things based off of what he knows is right to do for the people around him rather than what he knows is right for himself.”

According to Cooper, the play also brings aspects of flight to Liberty’s theater that sends the cast soaring across stage in a way that simulates the action of swinging on a vine.

“There is so much spectacle in this show, people are just going to be thrilled,” Overymyer said.

With elaborate sets, action scenes and Grammy-award-winning music from Phil Collins, according to the Liberty Theatre Arts Department’s website, this is a show students are not going to want to miss.

Visit Alluvion’s website for ticket information and a complete listing of show times beginning April 12 and ending May 12.

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