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Full Casting Announced for TARZAN, The Broadway Musical
December 8, 2005 - by BWW News Desk

Disney Theatrical Productions is proud to announce full casting for TARZAN®, The Broadway Musical.

Photo (l-r): Josh Strickland (Tarzan), Jenn Gambetese (Jane) and composer/lyricist of Tarzan®, The Broadway Musical, Phil Collins.
Photo by Lyn Hughes © Disney 2005

The production will star Josh Strickland as Tarzan, Jenn Gambatese as Jane, Merle Dandridge as Kala, Shuler Hensley as Kerchak, Chester Gregory II as Terk, Timothy Jerome as Professor Porter and Donnie Keshawarz as Clayton. Daniel Manche and Alex Rutherford will alternate in the role of Young Tarzan.

TARZAN® will open May 10, 2006 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (226 West 46th Street). Previews will begin on March 24, 2006.

Two-time Tony Award® winner Bob Crowley (Aida, Carousel), will direct and design scenery and costumes for TARZAN®. Oscar® and seven-time GRAMMY® Award winner Phil Collins has written the music and lyrics, expanding his songs for Disney’s film into a complete theatre score. Tony Award®-winner David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) has written the book, based on the novel, Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the film, Tarzan®. Choreography is by Meryl Tankard, with aerial design by Pichón Baldinu (De La Guarda). Lighting design is by Tony Award®-winner Natasha Katz (Aida) and sound design is by John Shivers. Other members of the creative team include Paul Bogaev (Music Producer/Vocal Arrangements) and Doug Besterman (Orchestrations).

“The creative team for TARZAN® has re-imagined, and in some cases, reinvented characters from the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, and Disney’s animated film,” commented Thomas Schumacher, President of Disney Theatrical Productions. “We hope to bring a fresh perspective to the Tarzan legend, and we think that we have found a wonderful cast to make these roles their own.”

Josh Strickland (Tarzan) has been seen on television on “Star Search 2004” and “American Idol,” and has also appeared in the national tour of Rent. Strickland will make his Broadway debut in TARZAN®.

Jenn Gambatese (Jane) starred on Broadway last season in All Shook Up, and has also appeared in Broadway’s Hairspray, A Year with Frog and Toad and Footloose. Merle Dandridge (Kala) has been seen on Broadway in Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar and Aida and the national tours for Aida, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Smokey Joe’s Café.

Shuler Hensley (Kerchak) won the Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Olivier Awards for his critically acclaimed performance as Jud Fry in Oklahoma! and has also starred in Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera.

Chester Gregory II (Terk) made his Broadway debut in Hairspray and earned critical acclaim on the national tour of The Jackie Wilson Story.

Timothy Jerome (Professor Porter) has appeared on Broadway in Me and My Girl (Tony® and Drama Desk nominations), Grand Hotel, Phantom of the Opera, La Boheme and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Donnie Keshawarz (Clayton) has been featured on Broadway in Taboo, and has been seen on television in “Lost,” “24” and “The Sopranos”.

Daniel Manche (Young Tarzan at certain performances) made his Broadway debut in Roundabout’s revival of Nine. His television credits include “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “SVU,” “All My Children” and “Guiding Light”.

Alex Rutherford (Young Tarzan at certain performances) made his Broadway debut as Chip in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, after appearing in the role in the show’s national tour.

The production will also feature Darrin Baker, Marcus Bellamy, Celina Carvajal, Dwayne Clark, Veronica deSoyza, Kearran Giovanni, Michael Hollick, Joshua Kobak, Kara Madrid, Kevin Massey, Anastasia McCleskey, Rika Okamoto, Marlyn Ortiz, Whitney Ostenoski, John Oyzon, Andy Pellick, Angela Phillips, Stefan Raulston, Horace V. Rogers, Sean Samuels, Nick Sanchez, Niki Scalera, Natalie Silverlieb, J.D. Aubrey Smith and Rachel Stern.

More than 90 years ago, Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced TARZAN® to the world in the October 1912 issue of “All Story Magazine.” The character was an instant sensation. Since then, he has been featured in 26 authorized novels and 44 motion pictures. Now Disney Theatrical Productions brings TARZAN® to the Broadway stage.

Phil Collins composed five songs for the 1999 film, “Disney’s Tarzan®,” including “Two Worlds, One Family,” “Strangers Like Me,” and “You’ll Be In My Heart,” which won the 2000 Academy Award® for Song of the Year, spent 10 weeks as #1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, and was #1 in 14 countries. The soundtrack went double platinum, while the film went on to instant international success, grossing $447 million worldwide, with subsequent DVD sales in excess of 13 million units.

Collins, who makes his Broadway songwriting debut with TARZAN®, has written music and lyrics for eight new songs for the Broadway production, in addition to his film score.

Although he has directed in his native Ireland, Bob Crowley makes his Broadway directorial debut with TARZAN®. Crowley, whose recent work includes his Tony Award®-winning scenery for Aida and his acclaimed design for Mary Poppins in London, has been praised for creating expressionistic, poetic environments for his productions, and brings that depth of artistry to the world of TARZAN®.


JOSH STRICKLAND (Tarzan) is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. Josh recently completed the national tour of Rent where he performed the roles of Mark and Roger. Other credits include Guest Vocalist with Shania Twain. He has also been named Carolina Idol 2002, was a national finalist in Fox television’s “American Idol” and appeared on ABC’s season premiere of “Star Search 2004.” Josh has also performed with national jazz musician Kevin Mahogany at the International Spoleto Arts Festival USA and appeared as “Spirit of the Child” in the festival’s Opera Curly River.

Jenn Gambatese (Jane) most recently starred on Broadway in All Shook Up as both ‘Natalie’ and ‘Ed’. Other Broadway: ‘Penny Pingleton’ in Hairspray, ‘Mouse’ et al in A Year with Frog and Toad, and ‘Urleen’ in Footloose. Off-Broadway: ‘The Statue of Liberty’ in Reefer Madness. Tours (Europe and North America): ‘Serena Katz’ in Fame. TV: “All My Children”. Film: upcoming in The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert DeNiro.

MERLE DANDRIDGE (Kala). Broadway credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar, Aida, Rent. Tours: Aida (First National: Aida/Nehebka), Ain't Misbehavin' (Europe), Smokey Joe's Cafe (U.S.). Chicago: The Kentucky Cycle (Midwest Premiere, Joseph Jefferson Award), Passion, As You Like It (Rosalind), Balm in Gilead (Ann). Television: “Third Watch,” “NCIS,” “Angel,” “The Edge” (UPN Pilot), “Pros and Cons” (ABC Pilot), “All My Children,” “Guiding Light”. Voice over: The PC/XBox game Half Life 2 (Alyx Vance/G-Phoria award for Best Female Voice Performance), Half Life2: Aftermath (Alyx Vance).

Shuler Hensley (Kerchak). Broadway: Jud Fry in Oklahoma! (Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Olivier Awards), Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, and Javert in Les Miserables. Off-Broadway: The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Regional: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, The Most Happy Fella. Opera: Regina, Don Giovanni, La Boheme, and Carmen. TV: “Ed,” “Deadline,” “Gary Powers,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Criminal Intent,” “The Jury”. Film: Van Helsing, Monday Night Mayhem, Someone Like You, The Bread, My Sweet, The Legend of Zorro and the upcoming Opa.

Chester Gregory II (Terk) made his Broadway debut as Seaweed in Hairspray. This Gary, IN, native received numerous awards for his portrayal of Jackie Wilson in The Jackie Wilson Story. Other credits include Soul of Black Music (Black Ensemble, London), Scapin' (Court Theatre), Drowning Crow (Goodman) and Disney's Lion King Master Classes. Chester has performed for Michael Jackson and is working on a recording deal. His music is featured on

TIMOTHY JEROME (Professor Porter) most recently appeared in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. Nominated for Tony® and Drama Desk Awards for Me and My Girl, he was also featured in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Grand Hotel, The Magic Show, Cats, Lost in Yonkers, The Rothschilds, Man of La Mancha, La Boheme and dozens of original plays and musicals in regional theatre companies. His films include Thirteen Days, Cradle will Rock, Billy Bathgate, Spiderman II, Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, Celebrity, and Everyone Says I Love You. Tim is the Founding President of National Music Theater Network and The NY Musical Theatre Festival.

DONNIE KESHAWARZ (Clayton). Broadway: Taboo. Off-Broadway: Drifting Elegant (The Director's Company), Big Ole Washing Machine (Atlantic Theatre Studio). Regional: Homebody Kabul (Trinity Rep) The Memorandum (Guthrie), Fall (Berkeley Rep, Baltimore CenterStage) TV: “Lost,” “24” (recurring role), “The Sopranos” (recurring role), “Sex & the City,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Hack,” “As the World Turns” (recurring role). Film: Drifting Elegant, Growing Down in Brooklyn, Tony 'n Tina's Wedding (the movie).

DANIEL MANCHE (Young Tarzan at certain performances). Broadway: Nine (Young Guido); TV: “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” & “SVU,” “All My Children,” “Guiding Light,” “What's the Scoop?” Film: Headspace.

Alex Rutherford (Young Tarzan at certain performances) made his Broadway debut as Chip in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast after traveling with the national tour. His favorite pastimes are reading, wrestling with his Dad and brother, playing Playstation 2 and riding his bike

BOB CROWLEY (Director/Scenic and Costume Design) is an Associate of the National Theatre, for which he has designed The History Boys, Mourning Becomes Electra, His Girl Friday, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ghetto, Hedda Gabler, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, The Absence of War, The Prince’s Play, Richard III, White Chameleon, The Sea, Night of the Iguana, Carousel, The Designated Mourner, The Cripple of Inishmaan, King Lear and Amy’s View. Royal Shakespeare Company: Designed over 25 productions, including: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Tony® nomination), The Plantagenetes, Henry IV, Parts 1 & II, King Lear, Hamlet. Field Day Theatre Company: Saint Oscar, The Cure at Troy (co-directed with Stephen Rea). Other set and costume designs: Donmar Warehouse: Into the Woods, Orpheus Descending. Almeida Theatre: Pinter’s Moonlight, No Man’s Land, The Iceman Cometh (Tony® nomination), Cressida, The Judas Kiss. Royal Ballet Covent Garden: Pavane, Anastasia. Royal Opera House Covent Garden: The King Goes Forth to France, The Knot Garden, La Traviata. English National Opera: The Magic Flute. Chatelet Paris: The Cunning Little Vixen. Bavarian State Opera Munich: Don Giovanni. Lincoln Center Theater: Carousel (Tony Award®), Hapgood, The Invention of Love (Tony® nomination), Twelfth Night (Tony® nomination). Public Theatre: The Seagull. Other Broadway: Paul Simon’s The Capeman (Tony® nomination), Sweet Smell of Success, Disney’s Aida (Tony Award®). Most recently: Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre). Royal Designer for Industry Award.

PHIL COLLINS (Music/Lyrics) is one of today's most popular vocalists, songwriters and performers, and has been hailed as one of the best drummers in the world. Collins has won seven GRAMMY® Awards and released solo albums with sales totaling more than 70 million copies. Among his accomplishments in film, he contributed songs to the GRAMMY®-winning soundtrack of Disney's Tarzan®, including “You'll Be In My Heart,” which was nominated for a GRAMMY® and won the Academy Award® and Golden Globe® for Best Song. Most recently, Collins wrote six songs and made his film score composing debut (in collaboration with Mark Mancina) on Disney's Brother Bear and also composed the score for Tarzan® II. Factoring in his work with Genesis, Brand X, and a gallery of star groups and performers (including Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, John Cale, Quincy Jones, and Tony Bennett), Collins has left his mark on some 200 million records worldwide. His hit songs include “In the Air Tonight,” “One More Night,” “Sussudio,” “Take Me Home,” “Two Hearts” and “Another Day in Paradise.” Among his other accomplishments, Collins fulfilled a lifetime ambition by touring with his own 20-piece big band, which made its debut in London's Royal Albert Hall in the company of conductor Quincy Jones and vocalist Tony Bennett. Collins embarked on a solo career after taking a break from being front man and drummer for the band Genesis, with whom he played for 25 years. His solo albums include Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going, No Jacket Required, …But Seriously, Serious Hits…Live!, Both Sides, Dance Into the Light, Hits, Hot Night in Paris and Testify. Collins most recently completed his successful Final Farewell Tour.

David Henry Hwang (Book) was awarded the 1988 Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and John Gassner Awards for his Broadway debut, M. Butterfly, which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. For his play Golden Child, he received a 1998 Tony® nomination and a 1997 Obie Award. His new book for the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song earned him his third Tony® nomination in 2003. He was also a book writer on Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida. Hwang’s other plays include FOB (1981 Obie Award), The Dance and the Railroad, Family Devotions, The Sound of a Voice and Bondage. His opera libretti include three works for composer Philip Glass, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, The Voyage and The Sound of a Voice, as well as The Silver River with music by Bright Sheng and Ainadamar with Osvaldo Golijov. Hwang penned the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate and Possession (co-writer) and co-wrote the song “Solo” with composer/performer Prince. His new play, Yellow Face, will premiere next season. Hwang serves on the Dramatists Guild Council.

Meryl Tankard (Choreography) began her career as a classical dancer with the Australian Ballet. She later joined Pina Bausch's Wuppertaler Tanztheater as a soloist and became renowned for her performances in Kontakhof, Cafe Muller, 1980, Keuscheitslegende, Arien, Walzer and Bandoneon. Between 1989 - 1999 she directed her own dance companies in Australia creating over 15 full-length works including: Furioso, Possessed, Aurora, Songs with Mara and Inuk, which she toured internationally to New York (BAM), London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Sydney. Since 2000, Tankard has worked freelance, creating works for Lyon Ballet (Bolero), Netherlands Dance Theatre (Merryland and Petrushka), Berlin Ballet (@ North), choreographing for Tiffany and Co. New York (Pearl) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Beautiful Game); and creating/directing Deep Sea Dreaming for the 2000 Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony. In 2003 she conceived and choreographed a full-length ballet Wild Swans for the Australian Ballet. In 2004 she was awarded an Australia Council Creative Development Fellowship, and is currently developing a film script and a musical.

PICHÓN BALDINU (Aerial Design) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His professional career began in 1984, when, while studying at the Conservatorio de Arte Dramático, he co-founded La Organización Negra, the first underground theatre company in Buenos Aires. The quest for striking language coupled with the impact of post-dictatorship Argentina led to the creation of the theater group, UORC - Teatro de Operaciones (1986). Baldinu’s constant curiosity for new ways of expression encouraged him to experiment in non-conventional areas, including buildings and monuments throughout the city of Buenos Aires. La Tirolesa (1989) was created in this fashion. After dissolving La Organización Negra in 1993, Baldinu co-founded the De La Guarda Company, focusing on the search of a theatrical language that allowed him to move and excite audiences. Later on, De La Guarda presented five shows in an experiment called Doma (1998). This mega-show, performed in the open-air, was the greatest aerial show and production of the company.

NATASHA KATZ (Lighting Design). Recent Broadway: Aida (Tony Award® 2000), Beauty and the Beast, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Sweet Smell of Success, Twelfth Night, Flower Drum Song, Dance of Death, The Capeman and Barrymore. National Theatre, London: Buried Child. Extensive designs Off-Broadway and for American regional theatres. Opera/dance: Cyrano (Metropolitan Opera), Die Soldatan (NYC Opera), Carnival of the Animals (NYC Ballet), Tryst (Royal Ballet), and Don Quixote (American Ballet Theatre). Concert acts: Shirley MacLaine, Ann-Margret and Tommy Tune. Permanent lighting installations: Niketown NYC and London and the Big Bang at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.

JOHN SHIVERS (Sound Design). Sound design credits include: In My Life, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, Julia Sweeney’s God Said ‘Ha’ and various productions of Savion Glover, Dionne Warwick and Gregory Hines. He is also credited as the associate sound designer/production sound engineer for Broadway and worldwide productions of Hairspray, The Producers, The Lion King, Aida, Titanic, Big, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Who’s Tommy, Guys and Dolls and The Buddy Holly Story.

PAUL BOGAEV (Music Producer/Vocal Arrangements). Executive producer of the 2004 GRAMMY®-winning soundtrack and music director of the 2003 film, Chicago. Broadway: Music supervisor and orchestrator, Bombay Dreams (2004 Tony® nominee); music producer and arranger, Aida (2000 GRAMMY® Award); music director, Sunset Boulevard, Joseph, Aspects of Love, Chess, Les Miserables, Starlight Express and Cats. Film: Connie and Carla with Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette. Currently: Julie Taymor's new movie with songs by The Beatles, and Dreamgirls with Jamie Foxx, Beyonce and Eddie Murphy. ABC television musicals: “Cinderella,” “South Pacific,” and “Annie” (2000 Emmy Award®). Conductor: Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Michael Crawford and the silent film masterpiece Napoleon, presented by Francis Coppola. Disney films: Mulan (Music Director), song arrangements for Disney’sTarzan® and The Lion King.

Doug Besterman (Orchestrations) A three-time Tony Award® winner, Doug's Broadway orchestration credits include: Dracula, Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002 Tony Award® and Drama Desk Awards) The Producers (2001 Tony® and Drama Desk Awards), Fosse (1999 Tony Award®), The Music Man (Drama Desk and Tony Award® nominations), Seussical, Big (Drama Desk Award nomination), Damn Yankees (Drama Desk Award nomination), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Off-Broadway: Weird Romance, Jack's Holiday, Johnny Pye and the Foolkiller, The Gifts of the Magi, Godspell; also in New York: King David, A Christmas Carol, and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Film/television: The Producers, Chicago, Mulan, Anastasia, Pocahontas, Lincoln, Cinderella, Annie, Geppetto, South Pacific, and Superstar. Doug has also arranged for: Christine Andreas, Toni Braxton, Beyonce Knowles, Barry Manilow, Mandy Patinkin, Barbra Streisand, the LA Philharmonic, and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS, a unit of BUENA VISTA THEATRICAL GROUP, was formed in 1994 and operates under the direction of Thomas Schumacher. The company’s inaugural production, Beauty & The Beast, is currently the sixth-longest running show in Broadway history. In May 1997, The Walt Disney Company completed restoration of the historic New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, reopening with the world premiere concert of Alan Menken & Tim Rice’s King David. Later that same year, Disney opened The Lion King, which received six 1998 Tony Awards® including Best Musical, as well as the 1998 GRAMMY® Award for Best Musical Show Album. Now in its ninth sold-out year on Broadway, The Lion King can also currently be seen onstage in London, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Hamburg, Tokyo, Nagoya and two touring companies throughout the U.S. In June 1999, Disney premiered its first new musical outside the United States when Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame, an adaptation of the Disney film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, opened in Berlin. Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida, which opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in March 2000, ended its triumphant four and a half year run on Broadway in September 2004. Aida received four 2000 Tony Awards® including Best Music/Lyrics and the 2000 GRAMMY® Award for Best Musical Show Album. Aida can also be seen in Kyoto, Seoul, and Munich, Germany. Mary Poppins in partnership with Cameron Mackintosh is now playing at London’s Prince Edward Theatre. Projects currently in development include The Little Mermaid with direction by Francesca Zambello and music by Alan Menken.


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