News Column

'Tarzan' premiere a dream come true for acting company

September 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 05--DECATUR -- Since Mid Summer Moon Productions made the move to the Decatur Civic Center in 2011 and became a full-time company, partners Mike Huff and Maria Lightner have kept their own "bucket list" of shows at the ready. These are the shows that both partners have always dreamed of putting on since the organization first started hosting sporadic plays in 1998.

At tonight's premiere they'll be crossing one of those shows off the list, the musical adaptation of Disney's "Tarzan."

"It's never been done anywhere around here that I know of," said Lightner of the show, which runs this weekend and next. "It's Mike's favorite show, so we had an agreement that if it ever became available, we would do it right away. It's been on Broadway for several years and we've just been waiting for it to be released, and now it finally has."

The classic boy-meets-girl story is based off the 1999 musical film of the same name, which featured a full soundtrack by prolific rock star Phil Collins. These songs were a major attraction for Huff and Lightner, along with the chance to work on some new styles of costuming for their large cast, many of them children.

"We both really love the music," Lightner said. "It really is a true musical in that there's not as much dialogue, and even when there is it's underscored by music. I also like the fact that we're able to do something a little different than we've done in the past. There is less traditional costuming, and more tribal and minimalist stuff."

As they sought to plan for "Tarzan," Mid Summer Moon's administrators decided to take a chance and open an online Kickstarter project to gain extra funding for the show. The project ended well short of the $7,500 goal, but Lightner says there were still positive aspects to doing it.

"It didn't go as well as we hoped," she admitted. "Honestly though, we really put it out there just to see what would happen. I don't know that we were expecting it to get fully funded. It did make us get some promotional things out there and it did help us get some backers who funded us outside the site."

Ideally, though, the Kickstarter would have provided "seed money" for the next Mid Summer show, leaving less in the hands of "Tarzan's" audiences.

"It would have helped alleviate some anxiety," Lightner said. "We don't have a great big pot to pull from to pay everything off up front. Usually, we have to wait until after the show, and we typically break even."

Brian Morgan is a father of four, three of whom are now old enough to participate in Mid Summer Moon shows. He will join them this time around in "Tarzan," playing a gorilla. He says the organization has been invaluable in giving him an activity to share with his kids.

"They talked me into doing the musical with them this year, and it's been great," he said. "I love doing things with our whole family. It's really nice when you find something you can enjoy as much as your kids."

Morgan feels the experience has been good for his children as well, an eye-opening and confidence-promoting series of lessons.

"The kids really enjoy the education part of it, learning how to act and to sing," he said. "Some of the kids in the organization have gone on to majors in theater or music, and if my kids want to do that some day, we would support them 100 percent."

jvorel@herald-review.com|(217) 421-7973

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(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

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