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‘Tarzan’ Swings into Peoria Players

Tarzan the Musical

Tarzan is one of those musicals from which you walk away with a life lesson and feel better about your values and morals.  This story takes place shortly after a shipwreck and washes ashore a young couple and their baby.  After their demise, the baby is welcomed into a gorilla tribe wife of the leader, Kala, with anything but open arms from their leader, Kerchek.  After the tribe breaks apart due to the different views of the leaders, they are slowly joined back together and build the strength of the tribe to help fend off the unwanted expedition visitors.  During this time, Tarzan gets acquainted with Jane and they both fall head over heels for each other — not even a language barrier will keep these two apart. Soaring through the jungle, they learn about each other and their cultures.  But let’s not forget about their jungle expert, Clayton, who wants nothing more but to capture the gorillas and sell them to make a load of money.  After Clayton’s plan goes awry, there is a tragic loss in the family which has Clayton landing himself in the brig to be taken back to England.  However, the power of love always prevails where Tarzan leads his best friend, Terk, his mother, Kala, and the rest of tribe onto their next journey all the while at his side, his lovely wife, Jane. Tarzan is portrayed by Miles McGill, Jane Porter by Paula VanKuren, and Terk by Taylor Walter-Greer. These three actors lead us through the jungle of life lessons, and love.

Peoria Players is soaring to new heights in this Disney timeless classic of Tarzan the Musical.  From the choreography, set and music, to the added element of flight, this show will not disappoint.  The combined talents of veteran choreographer Michelle Loeffler, music director Nichole Fauser, and director Steve Hausler have brought this Tony award-winning musical based on Phil Collins’ music to a new standard. Loeffler’s talents should not be unnoted, as she has been choreographing and dancing since she was three and half years old. She choreographed her first show at the age of fourteen.  Michelle has her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance Performance from the University of Illinois, and she owned her own dance studio where she taught for almost twenty years.  Since 1982, she has been seen on stage here in the Peoria area or choreographing shows. “I am excited to work with Steve Hausler for his first major show at Peoria Players Theatre.  I am super excited to be able to have new challenges with the fly system in this show and I think it is a great way to start off the 101st season here,” claimed Loeffler. Nichole Fauser is no stranger to the theatre as well. Originally from Seattle, Washington, she moved here and changed her major to Music Education at Eureka College.  She now teaches at Lincoln K-8 School in Peoria. Fauser has music directed many shows at Peoria Players thus far.  “I love this story; I am drawn to the themes of love and acceptance as well as the idea that you can choose who is a member of your family. It is playful at times but extremely powerful and inspiring at others,” said Fauser.  “I have always loved this Disney film as a kid growing up where it was nice to see that family is different to everyone.  You may not be exactly alike, but you are still family.  It reminds me of how my mother used to take in all of our friends as her own children,” stated Hausler.  Steve Hausler is not new to the theatre; he has directed a couple smaller shows including Clue the Musical, and Martin Luther: Beggar Before God for local smaller theater groups.  His vision has taken the standard of the normal show at Peoria Players Theatre and has raised it to soaring heights.  “The amount of work and dedication from all of my team members and cast has been outstanding.  I could not have asked for a better set of people,” said Hausler. Hausler has added the element of flight to this production, which adds an additional challenge.  “I had to break that barrier. With flight we are able to pull the audience more into the story and have them leaving in awe,” Hausler continued. “The biggest challenge with adding this element is making sure safety is the key and having to adjust all aspects of the show to make sure there is adequate spacing for flight and landing. It must be seamless.”  Hausler raves about his set designer and his costumers as well. Travis Olson is his advising director for this production and also stepped up as his set designer.  “Having worked on most of the Disney musicals, this was on my bucket list.  As a child, watching Johnny Weissmuller fly through the trees truly romanticized the story.  Add in the exciting score and you have a beautifully illustrated story.  This show has many challenges, and I like challenges,” said Olson.  Olson has done many set designs in the area and on the Peoria Players Theatre stage, he has designed over thirty shows already. Olson and Hausler with their creative minds designed both a visually appealing set as well as a challenging one.  “There is no fun without a challenge,” claims Hausler.  Jane Prest and Lynne Grimson have teamed up with many years of costume building experience to deliver an elaborate show that will make people want to see it many more times.  With their intricate designs to capture both the story and the animated Disney movie, they have come up with a spread of costumes that would rival King Midas. “We were lucky enough to rent the original Broadway costumes for the gorillas, but had to make the original for any human character.  The challenge brought to costuming is to make costumes that look seamless and can fly and hide the harness of the actors.  Our reasoning for jumping on this journey of Tarzan is because the director was so passionate and enthusiastic with his vision for the show. We could not resist,” stated Prest and Grimson. Hausler has been involved with the local community theater scene since his first show on this historic stage.  He is thrilled to be leading off such a terrific season.

Tarzan the Musical kicks off Peoria Players’ 101st consecutive season. Performances include September 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 pm and September 8 and 15 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for those 20 and younger.  To purchase tickets, call 309-688-4473 or head over to peoriaplayers.org.

Later this season, five more excellent shows will be presented, including Million Dollar Quartet, Matilda the Musical, Kinky Boots, A Raisin in the Sun, and the return of Mamma Mia.  The 100th season was celebrated not only across the city, but also throughout the state.  The Illinois Theatre Association presented Peoria Players with their Award of Excellence in Community Theatre, while the theater was also honored by the Peoria Historical Society with their Centenarian Award, along with ArtsPartners’ first-ever Arts Legacy Award.  The 100th season finished with Peoria Magazines’ Best of Peoria awards for Best Arts Venue and Best Theater Production for Mamma Mia. Peoria Players has gained steady momentum over the past several years and remains a staple in the local community.  It is the longest continuously running community theater in Illinois and the fourth longest in the nation.