Pros: Hilarious and sassy with a talented cast and catchy songs.
Cons: Some dodgy Midwest accents on show and a few confusing moments.
I’ve learnt the hard way about putting on theatre on the same night as a major sporting occasion. Try staging a play in Manchester the same day as the Man City victory parade after they’ve won the league for the first time in fifty years. See what happens. Zanna, Don’t! didn’t seem to have the same problem though, as the theatre was almost full despite the England game going on downstairs. Perhaps the crowds didn’t really crossover, perhaps I was the only one who left humming both ‘Vindaloo’ and one of the many catchy tunes from the show. Just maybe.
Yes, Zanna’ Don’t! caters to a different market than the World Cup, but it doesn’t make it any less worthwhile of a way to spend ninety minutes. Indeed, given the result, I was quite pleased to have missed most of that torture by having fun with the students of Heartsville High. I knew what I signed up for with this über-camp musical and it didn’t disappoint. Indeed, it exceeded expectations. The vocal talent on show was actually quite exceptional, and the choreography was impressive given the small stage space the cast were working with.
The musical tells the story of an alternate world where gay is normal and straight is maligned. It is predictably full of glitter and a healthy dose of wit and snark, but it also provides some unexpected pathos and 9ven some ‘I’m-not-crying-I’m-just-cutting-onions’ moments.
Every single link in the Zanna, Don’t! chain was as strong as the next, with each cast member impressing at one point or another. Of particular note were Jonathan Dudley as Mike and Jennifer Saayeng as Roberta who both hit such stirring notes that I cursed under my breath. However, each cast member makes their mark with Ben Sell’s enchanting charisma as Zanna, and Carol Heffernan’s Kristin Chenoweth-esque, pint-sized ferocity as Candi. In fact, perhaps the most impressive musical number, Fast, was sung by supporting characters. No one missed a beat, dropped a note or fudged a dance move in this appropriately titles fast-paced song – a remarkable feat.
I’m usually a stickler for accents, and am annoyed when they’re not right. This is especially true of plays set in Midwest America, as Zanna, Don’t! is, as are two of my own plays that I have produced and worked tirelessly to ensure sound authentic. However, even though there were some seriously iffy accents in this show, I wasn’t all that fussed. Since all the other elements clicked so well, I decided to just let it go.
The only other negative was there were moment I didn’t quite get what was going on. This was largely issues with the source material, not the production, though I couldn’t help but feel that one of the musical numbers ‘Whatcha Got?’ felt completely out of place, as if it belonged in a different scene, moved by the production team whilst cutting perhaps?
These minor missteps aside, this production was a truly enjoyable evening – so much fun and even moving at times. A talented cast who are definitely going places, and who deserve more than an odd-shaped room above a pub that’s getting less attention than the terrible football team playing a game on TV downstairs.
Book, Music and Lyrics: Tim Acito
Additional Book and Lyrics: Alexander Dinelaris
Director: Drew Baker
Choreographer: Tom Scanlon
Musical Director: Isaac McCullough
Box Office: 020 7737 7276
Booking Link: http://www.landortheatre.co.uk/index.php/booking-office/musicals/zanna-dont-85/
Booking Until: 29 June 2014