“I always get a little anxious right around this time,” says Maralee Francis with a laugh.
It’s just a few days from the premiere of Tarzan, The Musical at Grand County High School.
The drama department director works well under stress, though, and so do the over 30 students who are performing or helping to stage the production, which will run from Thursday to Saturday with performances on Nov. 21, 22 and 23 at 7 p.m in the Grand County High School Auditorium (608 S. 400 East).
The drama department at the high school produces one full musical annually, so each year they try to mix selections up.
“Last year, we did White Christmas,” says Francis, “This year, Tarzan. We focus on getting our students exposed to as much variety as we can.”
Tarzan, The Musical is based on the 1999 Disney animated film, which follows jungle-living Tarzan’s defense of his gorilla family and love for the young scientist, Jane. The film was adapted into a Broadway production with music by Phil Collins in 2006.
Francis said that she saw a production of the musical at a theatre conference and fell in love with the syncopated music and imaginative style.
“It was one of those things where the show just caught our attention,” says Francis, “and I knew I wanted to bring it to our students.”
Francis decided to produce the play without already having students in mind for any of the roles, making the audition process exciting for students.
“We didn’t have a specific Tarzan or Jane or anyone in mind when we started out. Now, I can’t think of casting the production any other way. You see how much the students grow into their characters over time,” she said.
GCHS student Dallin Stucki will portray Tarzan, while Josie Wakefield will take the role of Jane in the production.
One way that the students are helped to develop their characters is through creative costuming. For a production where more than half the cast is portraying animals, that takes a great effort.
“We have the best costumers,” said Francis. “They’re all volunteers and just wonderful. These aren’t easy costumes to make, and they look amazing.”
“I think our costumers got a little sick of making gorilla outfits, but you can see the cast just light up and become the characters when they put them on,” she said.
It takes dozens of people to mount a full-scale musical production at the high school. Everyone from students, staff, volunteers and community members come together to pull it off.
“We have great school and community support every year,” said Francis with pride. “We feel very blessed to be in a community that supports theatre for our young people.”
“When the play is over, I usually hear from people they are sad that they missed it,” she said.
Don’t be one of those people!
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/GCHStarzan