‘Tarzan: The Musical’ swings into the Wheeler Opera House

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
The cast of "Tarzan" ranges from age 6 to 40-plus.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Disney’s ‘Tarzan: The Musical’

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Saturday, June 4, 6 p.m.

How much: $20/adults; $18/students and under 18

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office;

A singing, dancing, swinging Colorado production of Disney’s “Tarzan: The Musical” brings the African jungle to the Wheeler Opera House stage for a one-night-only performance today.

It’s the latest touring production of the ambitious Rifle-based upstart film and theater company Secret Identity Pictures. Founded in 2014, the company aims to provide roles for local actors and stagehands to tour around the Western Slope and beyond.

“We wanted to create more opportunities and more eccentric opportunities for actors,” said founder Brett Lark, who is directing, producing and starring in the title role in “Tarzan.”

This spring, the touring production staged the show in Rifle and Grand Junction, with plans for Denver-area performances after this weekend in Aspen. Lark is hoping to expand the troupe’s tours beyond Colorado and onto national stages within the next three years. He’s planning a production of “Mary Poppins” for next spring.

Based on the 1999 Disney movie, the family-friendly “Tarzan: The Musical” tells the popular story of the infant boy shipwrecked in Africa and raised by the gorilla Kala, growing into a vine-swinging ape-man who later falls in with the English naturalist Jane Porter.

Lark’s paid cast and crew is plucked from community theater, high school programs and the pool of professional actors in Glenwood Springs, Rifle and New Castle. The cast of “Tarzan” ranges from age 6 to 40-plus.

The youngest actor in the cast is 6-year-old Meric Robinson of Rifle, who is playing young Tarzan. At an initial audition, Lark recalled, the kindergartener had trouble reading the script, so he spent a night practicing lines with his mother and returned the next day with his part memorized.

Sixteen-year-old New Castle native Sarah Burke is stage managing “Tarzan,” which she said offers some unique vine-swinging choreography and flying special effects, along with unexpected technical challenges.

“It’s hard to mic gorillas,” she said with a laugh, “because they’re stomping around.”

Micah Ziegler, a 20-year-old theater and cultural anthropology major at Wheaton College in Illinois — who cut his teeth in the Rifle High School theater program — has swapped roles a few times in the show. A professor in the Grand Junction shows, he’ll play the ape Kerchak in Aspen.

“He’s a very versatile actor,” Lark said. “He’s up for the challenge.”

Along with rolling around, swinging from the rafters with Jane and doing acrobatics, Lark said, playing Tarzan and doing his signature yell has proved to be harder than it looks.

“Tarzan sings really high — extremely high — he has a lot of high notes,” Lark said. “So I’ve gone through five voice coaches preparing me for this role.”