Audiences will go on a journey through the jungle when Westerville Parks & Recreation Theatre brings the "Tarzan" musical to the stage at Westerville Central High School, 7118 Mount Royal Ave., July 26-29.
Matt Wolfe, a co-director of the show with Luke Bovenizer, said the 50-member cast is the "best of the best," having been chosen from among 250 who had auditioned.
The all-community show features artists ranging in age from 7 to 76 years old. Performances are set for 7 p.m. July 26-28 and 3 p.m. July 29.
Wolfe said "Tarzan" is based on the cartoon film of the same name that resulted in a successful collaboration between Phil Collins and Disney.
"While artistic licenses were certainly taken with the transformation from cartoon to musical, the heart of the story still remains," he said.
Wolfe said the musical opens with a shipwreck and young Tarzan's devastating origin story.
Orphaned and alone, Young Tarzan (Micah Zink) is found by Kala (Karla Kruse), a gorilla, who sees beyond their differences.
Kala and Young Tarzan begin a life of their own in the jungle and Tarzan (Zach Ryan) grows up with Kala still by his side.
Terk (Cody Schmid), another gorilla, is his best friend, and Tarzan spends his days trying to gain trust and respect from Kerchak (Mike Ruehrmund), Kala's husband, who has never trusted Tarzan, Wolfe said.
As life goes by on the island, an English ship eventually lands, bringing other humans to the island.
The arrivals include Professor Porter (Bill Yarbrough); his daughter, Jane (Cherish Myers); Clayton, the villain (Desmond Fernandez); and his expedition crew (Nick Martz, Ethan Zink, Justin Evans), who storm the island looking out for their best interests.
"Tarzan befriends Jane and we are thrust into the heart of the story," Wolfe said.
He said the musical addresses relevant and poignant subject matter in the world today and poses a number of questions: Can we love someone who doesn't look like us? Can we accept even when we don't understand? Can we learn from our mistakes? And what does it mean to truly connect and communicate with another living thing?
The lead cast is rounded out by Young Terk (Dominic Faiella), Father/Soloist (Patrick Schaefer), Mother (Sarah Santilli), Leopard (Joey Vice) and Creature (Savannah Garrison).
Ruehrmund said audiences should see the show because it offers something for everyone.
"The younger audience will get a big Disney stage musical with a lot of movement, color, and humor," he said. "The kids at heart get to see a timeless story about family, love, discovering who you are and who you are meant to be."
With Phil Collins' musical numbers and a ton of crazy apes, Ryan said, this production is a lot of fun from start to finish.
Katey Munger, a member of the ensemble, said at its heart, this is a show about family.
"It's about the ability to create our own families though our friends and community," she said. "Attending a wonderful theater production like 'Tarzan' with your children or grandchildren or neighbors will be a summer moment that they will remember sharing with you.
"And your support allows community-strengthening productions like this to continue in Westerville," Munger said.
Others helping with the production include choreographer Cindy Straub, music director Amy Rucker, orchestra director John Vermuelen, light designer Derryck Menard, sound designer Emily Hayman, stage manager Hiba Abdouni with assistance from Jeanne Guerin (charge artist/props), Jamie Schwanekamp (technical director) and Derrick McPeak (program supervisor).
Tickets are available for $15 at the community center or online through www.westerville.org/arts.
Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door, but historically, these performances have sold out.