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Tarzan on stage at Liberty High School beginning April 19

Since taking on the lead role in Liberty High School's production of the Disney musical "Tarzan," Christfur White, 17, has cut his head, an injury that required four stitches, scraped his knees and arms, and bruised both ankles.

"There's been a lot of blood," White said, with a laugh. "(Director Tony) Cimino says I'll be better at rugby because of this."

This is White's first theater production, and the senior — who also enjoys rugby — has loved every minute of it, he said.

"I thought I would just be a monkey and hang out," said White, who was persuaded to try out by his friends and fellow cast mates. "I got to be Tarzan. It's a lot of fun."

As with any show, there are risks, said Tina Delcher, the choreographer and assistant director of the show. The story of a boy raised by apes offers a few more than normal. There is swinging and twirling on vines both on stage and in the aisles and flying through the air. Students trained weekly with Baltimore Aerial Dancing to learn the "ropes" and have also been required to attend open gym twice a week to build body strength.

"We warm up and teach them the correct ways to take care of their bodies," Delcher, an English teacher, said. "All have gloves and shoes to help with stress and many have knee pads."

Still, it isn't easy becoming an ape, according to Cimino, who had his 22 "apes" spend the month of December researching the animals and their movements.

"It's a painful process. Knuckles are swollen, backs hurt, knees," Cimino said. "We were designed to walk like humans. They have to walk, think, move and sound like an ape. It is one of the biggest challenges."

The musical features a cast and backstage crew of 100, according to Cimino.

Everything about the production, from set design and construction to costumes, lighting and sound effects, was created by students.

"I love these costumes," said Emily Nupp, 17, who has the role of Jane and gets to enjoy four costume changes.

A veteran of many of Liberty's productions, the senior, calls the role of Jane her "ultimate favorite."

"This has been so much fun! I get to fly!" she said.

While Wesley Rankan's character, Clayton, does not get to fly or even his own song to sing, the 17-year-old still enjoys his role as the show's villain.

"The whole experience has just been wonderful," Rankan said of his first high-school role.

A golfer and a baseball player, Rankan also was persuaded to try out by friends.

"{They said] if you don't do it now, you'll wish you had done it," the senior said. "I've had so much fun. I wish I had started sooner."

This is Cimino's fourth year directing Liberty's spring production, and he couldn't be prouder of the cast.

"It's been amazing," Cimino said of the production, which is the state premiere of "Tarzan" by a student or regional company. "The kids have never worked harder. It is one of the most fun shows I ever had the pleasure of working with."

Tarzan will be performed April 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 at 7 p.m.; and on April 20 and 27 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For information, call 410-751-3560.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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