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For Shaler students, this year's musical departure from norm

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 7:48 p.m.
Pine Creek Journal
Alexa Bohler, who plays the role of Kala, Tarzan's gorillas mother, works on a scene for Shaler Area School Districts musical version of Tarzan. Louis Ragguinti | Pine Creek Journal
Pine Creek Journal
Colin Zeigler and Jess Dorow perform a scene together as both are portraying gorillas in the musical. Louis Ragguinti | Pine Creek Journal
Pine Creek Journal
Jordan Schreiber, a sophomore who will play the title role of Tarzan, has been hard at work preparing for Shaler Area School District's spring musical. Louis Ragguinti | Pine Creek Journal

Shaler Area High School students are challenging themselves and taking audiences on a jungle adventure in this year's spring musical “Tarzan.”

“I think Shaler was ready for a change,” said Kristin Demsey, musical director of this year's musical. “I think the kids were ready for a change. I think the community was ready for a change.”

“It (is) completely different from what we've been doing. There are very few humans in this musical.”

“Tarzan” is based on Disney's 1999 film about a boy who is raised by a family of gorillas but eventually discovers he is human and that there is a human world he hadn't known existed.

Students have worked since January to research the story and gorilla behaviors to present more convincing performances.

“It's that you have to get on stage and convince the audience you're a gorilla, and I'm probably the most ungorilla,” said Collin Ziegler, a senior who plays Tarzan's best gorilla friend, Terk. “I think that's the biggest risk we're taking.”

Students also are working to master a more complex musical score by Phil Collins with challenging chord progressions and variations and a variety of instruments.

“The style is completely different,” said Mike Laux, a senior who performs in the musical's percussion section. “We have very little mallet instruments. There were no hand drums last year, this year there's a lot; djembe, junjun, sekkere, bongo, congo, and a bunch of shakers.”

Close to 140 students are involved in this year's musical including the cast, stage crew and orchestra pit. And in addition to mastering the vocally and physically demanding musical, Demsey also is challenging the students with more dancing and acrobatic stunts, and she is incorporating vine swinging.

“This one is a lot harder because it needs a lot of energy and physical activity to do this,” said Alexa Boehler, a junior who plays Kala, Tarzan's gorilla mother.

For the full ensemble numbers, directors also are incorporating actors into the aisles of the auditorium to bring the cast's energy into the audience's seats.

“It adds that audience and cast connection, which is really important especially in a musical because it's so interactive,” said Emily Pirt, a senior who is in the ensemble and working as the blocking apprentice. “Because the cast feeds off of what the audience is feeling, it will boost the audience up energy-wise and the actors as well.”

High school sophomore Jordan Schreiber takes the stage as Tarzan and said the entire experience has been “like a dream come true.”

“A lot of people have stepped up to the challenge,” Schreiber said of the musical. “I think people should come to see this production if they want to see something different. It's not your classic ‘Singin' in the Rain' musical. It's more intense.”

A special senior citizens dress rehearsal performance will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28.

A special meet and greet session for children will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. before the Sunday, March 3, performance.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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