Laudable show and films: Tarzan, stylish aging, death

Michael Lumb (in the Ape-Man title role) checks out unfamiliar fabric on the tunic of Abbey Lee (as Jane) in “Disney’s Musical Tarzan.” Photo by Eric Chazankin.


And better.

That’s what this column’s about: local entertainment I’ve liked that I suspect you can as well.

Let’s start with the “good” — “Disney’s Musical Tarzan” at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park only through May 21.

Really good, in fact.

To be expected when you superimpose music and lyrics by Genesis’ front man, British singer-songwriter Phil Collins, on the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs tale about a boy raised by gorillas who has to adapt to human culture.

The Ape-Man fantasy’s all about family and acclimation.

And acceptance.

It’s funny. And it’s touching.

The musical’s a perfect sendoff for Gene Abravaya, managing-artistic director who’s retiring from the local theater company next month after 17 years to join his family in Tucson.

In a short pre-opening night talk, Abravaya, who co-directed this production, told media reps to expect “spectacle, comedy, farce, romance and adventure.”

He didn’t disappoint.

My granddaughter — who sat enraptured as Santa Rosa’s Michael Lumb, who alternates in the loin-clothed title role with Novato’s Walker Brinskele, swung from tree to tree — liked “all of the show — except when the gorilla gets shot.”

At that point, she’d already covered her eyes with her fingers in expectation.

But she loved the avant-garde/fairly surreal ape costumes Pamela Enz had designed, to the point of saying, “I want one.”

Her grandma and I enjoyed the costumes too, including those in a scene where actors whimsically portray flora (including a wonderfully colorful man-eating Venus Flytrap).

My wife was also taken by the lush jungle set created by Elizabeth Bazzano and Eddy Hansen, and I was struck by the over-the-top cartoonishness of Jeremy Berrick as Clayton the hunter and the vocal purity of Abbey Lee, who exquisitely doubles as Tarzan’s ape mother and Jane, the human who attracts him.

All three of us smiled at characters that become frequent flyers on make-believe vines.

I’d label “Disney’s Musical Tarzan” — with its unusually short 45-minute first act and slightly sluggish 70-minute second — a pleasurable family entertainment.


One flick definitely worth a look-see, especially if you’re an aging adult, is “Going in Style,” a comic heist film starring Morgan Freeman, Alan Alda and Michael Caine.

The film, playing at the Lark Theater in Larkspur, prompts compassion as well as smiles.

I found it reminiscent of movies like “The Maiden Heist” and “Mad Money” — but more satisfying, I believe, because of the stars who’ve grown gray alongside me.

Even better than that is “Truman,” a subtitled Spanish-Argentine film infused with warmth and sensitivity.

Its run the Rafael Theater in San Rafael just stopped. I recommend that if it returns, there or anywhere, you should see it. Or catch it when available on DVD.

It’s about a dog and dying.

Which sounds like a real downer, probably mawkish. But I found it to be neither.

Life affirming, actually.

Particularly as it depicts the renewed depth of friendship between two midlife guys — one an actor, the other a teacher.

Acting and writing in the comedy-drama are magnificent, in a way good acting and writing need to be: understated, often communicating without words.

Following that pattern of minimalism is a soundtrack featuring a lone guitar that gently pushes the plot along.

The movie isn’t for everyone, though.

If there’s an imminent death in your life, you may find it too real.

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About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at or, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →