So, Zorro and Musical; two words I never thought I would use together in the same sentence, but here we are. Think 1930’s Errol Flynn swashbuckler films, or Robert Taylor in Ivanhoe; lots of running about and clashing of swords (very safely of course). The goodies are good and the baddies are really bad; there’s a maiden that needs rescuing; oppressed villagers in need of a heroic leader – you get the picture. Add to the mix terrific music, lively dancing, a cast that’s obviously enjoying themselves and you get a great evening’s entertainment.
The performance area for the show has been set in the middle of Charing Cross Theatre, with the audience sitting in two sections at either end and opposite each other. It works well, but does mean the cast have to work twice as hard to ensure both areas get a good view. And work hard they do – it was quite exhausting watching them. Good use was made of the whole space, with the various comings and goings.
The first thing I noticed upon sitting down were three really creepy looking dolls/puppets. Turns out they are children; who would have guessed? They represent Diego, older brother Ramon and little girl Louisa whose familial status was never really explained. In this version of the story little Diego is about to be sent away to Spain to be educated, much to the annoyance of Ramon. Fast forward ten years or so and Ramon (Alex Gibson–Giorgio) has turned evil and taken over the pueblo; Diego (Benjamin Purkiss) is having a great time in Barcelona, having joined a gypsy troupe; Louisa (Paige Fenlon) has travelled to Spain to find Diego and persuade him to return to Los Angeles. I am pleased to say the story continues exactly as you would expect, with great panache and energy.
Several performances stood out for me: Phoebe Panaretos, playing Inez the Gypsy queen, has a really terrific voice; Marc Pickering, playing hapless Sergeant Garcia, with the best comic lines; and Gibson-Giorgio, playing archetypal bad guy nasty Ramon (boo hiss). The Gipsy Kings’ music provides a dynamic, flamenco-style accompaniment throughout, with the ensemble playing various instruments, as well as dancing and singing. My personal favourite songs were the vivacious ‘Bamboleo’ at the end of Act One and the duet ‘A Love We’ll Never Live’ in Act Two. Zorro’s last grand entrance to trumpet fanfare is worth looking out for. I feel the audience should have cheered at that moment, but it was staid and serious: Press Night, I guess.
There are high-spirited dance numbers, swirly skirts, castanets (by Ajjaz Awad), lots of bull fighting references and plenty of sword waving and cape spinning. Some of the accents occasionally went a bit ‘Allo ‘Allo – which was fine though, as it added to the overall humour. I would have liked a few more flaming swords, but can’t think of many more Spanish clichés that could have been shoe-horned in.
This tongue-in-cheek production has old jokes and a predictable storyline, which are all good things. It is, quite rightly, played straight for the most part with flair, swagger and exuberance, resulting in a funny, toe-tapping and joyful couple of hours. Great fun.
Produced by: John Gertz in association with Zorro USA; Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment
Directed by: Christian Durham
Book and Lyrics by: Stephen Clark
Music by: The Gipsy Kings
Co-Composition/Adaptation by: John Cameron
Zorro The Musical plays at Charing Cross Theatre until 28 May. Further information and bookings can be found here.