The big blockbuster show in which Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard is
making her Broadway debut has tanked, if you believe New York’s notoriously
bitchy theatre critics.

The only consolation for Meryl is that her choreography seems to be one of
the few redeeming features of the new Disney musical spectacular Tarzan, which,
according to The Sydney Morning Herald opened to underwhelming reviews this week.

The SMH has been in a bit fickle in its coverage. Two days ago its reporter
on the spot, Sharon Verghis, filed a very positive piece after seeing a review. Verghis’s glowing piece on Tankard, headlined “Me Tarzan,
you lady who make me swing”, was followed up today by a report under the heading:
“Word on the vine is that Tarzan is a stinker”.

Both headlines play on the fact that the cast, dressed up as apes, spend a
lot of time swinging around the stage on ropes, something of a signature device
in Tankard’s choreography.

Her choreography gets some praise but the rest of the show, directed by Bob
Crowley and with the songs provided by Phil Collins, gets roundly slammed, as
evidenced by these words from Newsday critic Linda Verner: “Despite some ravishing spectacle and excellent ape moves, the show
never defines itself beyond a sickly sweet, hard-sell Cirque du Soleil-meets-American Idol sensibility. By the time a band of primates dashes through
the aisles in the second act, the struggle for special effects feels desperate.”

Peter Fray

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