‘Tarzan’ cast learning to fly for Marble Falls High musical

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — With a nod of his head, Bill Auld sent Marble Falls High School student Julia Weber into the air, where she hovered momentarily before stretching out into a perfect “Superman” pose.

“There,” Auld said. “See how that feels.”

He was helping Weber adjust to the rigging and get comfortable with “flying” above the high school auditorium stage. Auld also was training a group of men in how to use the wires and rigs to “fly” the cast of the upcoming Marble Falls High School choir production of “Tarzan.”

“It’s not uncommon for high schools to do this,” Auld said about the wire and rigs. “But, here for this show, Bryce dreams big. Usually, it’s just one, maybe two students who use the wires, but not here. Bryce thinks big.”

Bryce, is Bryce Gage the high school’s choir director.

He and a cadre of staff, volunteers and students are orchestrating one of the biggest (if not the biggest) productions the high school has ever done when they bring Disney’s “Tarzan” to the stage Jan. 23-27. Auld pointed out this production has more than 10 students swinging through the air, maybe even more than a dozen (though, not at one time).

“It’s unusual here because it’s quite ambitious, the scale and all,” Auld said. “You’ll have everything from flowers, butterflies, gorillas to leopards.”

Auld works for Hall Associates Flying Effects of Chicago. He and others in the company train cast and crews around the world in flying on stage. Sometimes, it requires Auld and his fellow associates to travel with a major production for long periods of time. However, Auld was in Marble Falls for six days rigging the auditorium and training staff, crew and the adult volunteers on the wire rigging.

“He’ll basically take us from crawling to barely walking,” Gage said. “Then, it’s up to us to get up and running.”

The highest priority is safety, both Auld and Gage pointed out.

Tackling “Tarzan” has definitely brought significant challenges, even outside the flying. The set design, itself, has required major construction projects. The crew is building a tree that must bear the weight of several cast members in full gorilla costumes. Those costumes required hours to make as well.

Then, there’s the acting. Unlike many musicals in which learning lines, songs and some choreography is enough, “Tarzan” requires much more from cast and crew. The songs written by Phill Collins must be sung in a particular manner. For Austin Jones, who plays Tarzan, getting the songs down has been one of the biggest hurdles.

“A big challenge is trying to learn to sing like Josh Strickland, who played Tarzan on Broadway,” the senior said. “I hope I can get there.”

Gage, however, thinks his lead actor pretty close.

“He’s not that far off from Josh Strickland as he thinks,” Gage said. “It’s just some minor adjustments. And, as you know, sometimes the minor adjustments are the toughest.”

The pure physical nature of the performance has brought its own challenges.

“I had to learn to walk on my hands,” Jones said. “I have to learn how to swing on a vine. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m ready.”

Despite all the challenges and obstacles, Jones said the entire cast and crew has responded.

“It’s asked a lot of us along the way,” Jones said. “But we know business is business, so we come in here and work. Everybody understands that. This is a fun play, but you have to pull up your britches and get to work.”

While on its surface, “Tarzan” (about a human being ‘adopted’ by gorillas and then learning he is human) is a fun musical with great songs, lots of action and a strong story, the message goes a bit deeper. Jones paused a bit when considering that message.

“To me, it’s about accepting who you are and making decisions on who you need to be,” he said. “I think that’s the big part; it’s a story about acceptance.”

Bringing that together means plenty of work as students, staff and volunteers put in countless hours after school and even on weekends. But, as Auld puts Weber through her paces and a group of other students add paper mâché to the ever-growing tree, things are definitely taking shape.With another nod, Weber jumps high in the air, executes a back flip more than 10 feet above the stage and lands softly about 15 feet away.

“That’s it,” Auld said to Weber and the crew of dads working the cables and lines.

Now, it’s up to them to get from crawling to running, or in this case, flying across the stage.

Call (830) 798-3664 for ticket information of reservation. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students. Performances are 7 p.m. Jan. 23-24; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 25; 2 p.m Jan. 26; and 7 p.m. Jan. 27. All performances will be at the Marble Falls High School auditorium, 2101 Mustang Drive.

daniel@thepicayune.com

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Marble Falls High School production of Disney’s “Tarzan”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Jan. 23-24; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 25; 2 p.m Jan. 26; and 7 p.m. Jan. 27

WHERE: Auditorium at Marble Falls High School, 2101 Mustang Drive in Marble Falls

ADMISSION: $8 for adults and $5 for students

FOR MORE: Call (830) 798-3664