Inside a dance studio at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly last week, a group of actors rehearsed an important dance number in which Tarzan saves Jane from a serpent.
Choreographer Josh Bergasse and Director Bill Castellino started and stopped the proceedings several times, going over changes, exploring ideas, and asking for input from the cast.
"At rehearsal today, we found something new that will have a significant impact on the final production," Castellino said over lunch. "That kind of collaboration is unique."
You could call the entire "Tarzan" production — playing July 12 through 24 at the North Shore Music Theatre — unique. As Castellino describes, "It's not really a world premiere, but it's almost sort of like one."
When Bill Hanney, who bought the music theater in 2010, asked Disney for licensing for the show last year, company executives told him to wait a year. Little did he know they were planning and working out a wholesale revamping of the musical, which debuted on Broadway in May 2006, and ran for a little over a year before closing due to poor ticket sales.
For this version of "Tarzan," Disney has revised the script and some of the instrumentation on the songs written by Grammy Award-winning artist Phil Collins. The idea was to have a sleeker, more focused show that values story and substance over flashy special effects.
Disney wants the new "Tarzan" to have a broader lifespan and to be more "theater friendly" for the tour that will ultimately follow, Hanney said.
"I had no idea at all when we booked it that they wanted to make changes like this," he said, sounding almost giddy to be premiering the revamped musical, which he described as one of his favorites. "We're lucky we got to be the ones to present it, and I think it will be something Disney will be proud of."