published Friday, October 14th, 2011

'Tarzan' swinging into CCA this winter

Center for Creative Arts, Hamilton County's performing arts magnet school, is one of four high schools in the United States to be handpicked by Disney Theatrical Productions to stage "Tarzan," a musical based on Disney's animated feature film.

"They want to see what this production can be like when presented in a high school," said Debbie Smith, principal of Center for Creative Arts. "We are thrilled to have been chosen for this project, and we look forward to offering our students and the Chattanooga community a remarkable and highly entertaining theater experience."

Smith credited Jason Whitehead, director of musical theater at the school, with landing the honor. Through a mutual friend in New York City, Whitehead said he was introduced to a representative of Disney Theatrical.

"He emailed me and said they were looking for schools interested in piloting 'Tarzan' and that if I was interested to let him know. He sent me a script and score to read to make sure it was within our possibility," Whitehead said.

The director said his read-through raised "1,000 concerns," most notably, how to make Tarzan swing across the stage.

"The Disney representative said that was the point: to see how a high school could present this musical. So I decided to give it a try," Whitehead said.

Auditions will be held among the school's students in three weeks to cast the show. Open auditions will be held only for one role: a boy about 8 years old to play young Tarzan. Whitehead said that audition will be held in November.

Whitehead said the stage show is so new that "they don't even have scripts to send us. They are emailing scripts to us, and we are printing them out."

"Tarzan" is based on the novel "Tarzan and the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the 1999 Disney animated feature film. Whitehead said the score for the stage production includes the film's music written by Phil Collins with the popular hits "You'll Be in My Heart" and "Two Worlds" along with songs written just for the stage production.

Whitehead said the only other schools thought to be presenting "Tarzan" are one in Wisconsin and two in California.

The production will be overseen by Whitehead with choreography by Lindsay Fussell. Students will build sets and create costumes. The agreement requires that the musical be set in the school's auditorium.

Principal Smith said she expects a team from Disney to attend the performances, which are scheduled Feb. 16-18 at the school.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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