Zorro – The Musical @ Garrick Theatre, London

cast list
Matt Rawle
Emma Williams
Adam Levy
Lesli Margherita

directed by
Christopher Renshaw

music by
John Cameron/The Gypsy Kings

book by
Stephen Clark
I am too young to have been a fan of the famous 1950s Disney version ofwhat may have been the world’s first masked superhero.

By this, I mean withthe show being in black and white, and I being weaned on colour television,my eyes were, frankly, always more focused on the future, than on tales ofthe past. (For similar reasons, I found anything to do with Westernsdreadfully dull.)

The prospect of seeing a musical based on a character which I had happilyturned off in the Seventies was therefore one I approached with pretty lowexpectations and a readiness to be a bit bored.

Coupled with the fact that Iam not a great fan of the flamenco stylings of the musical’s backbone, theGipsy Kings (which remind me too much of being bored by similar itinerantmusicians that roam the plazas of the south of France), the evening was notexactly filled with anticipation.

Ironically, waiting an hour forcurtain-up due to technical problems made me quite excited that I might bein for some dazzling whizz-bangery, but, unfortunately, by the end, the mixof the spectacular with the humdrum left me only a notch or two aboveindifference.

The Zorro story, in a version apparently punched-up by Chilean novelistIsabelle Allende goes something like this: Spanish settlers under theeven-handed rule of Don Alejandro (Jonathan Newth) gatecrash California andset up a colony. Alejandro immediately sends his son, Diego (Matt Rawle),back to Spain to learn how to be a proper soldier, leaving his paramour,Luisa (Emma Williams), in America.

Once in Spain, however, Diego elopes fromthe Academy and joins a travelling gypsy show, before being tracked down byLuisa who begs him to return as his father has been killed in strangecircumstances and his deputy, Captain Ramon (Adam Levy), is ruling LosAngeles like an old fashioned tyrant. Diego returns, gypsy band in tow, anddecides to don a mask and cape as part of a cunning plan to keep his enemyclose and bring justice to the land.

Not surprisingly, given the amount of ground the story has to cover, theepic sweep of the tale ends up being more contained than one might hope.Indeed, contained is possibly the most apt description of the whole show.There are moments, particularly in the vigorous, heart-breaking response ofthe wives of the local farmers to the imminent execution of their husbandsfor a minor deception, where the flamenco dancing and soulful keening arelike bombshells going off on stage leaving you breathless at theirintensity. But for the most part, the show has the hallmarks of a damp squibwhich fizzles at times quite brightly before being dowsed out, as if byover-zealous safety officials.

A case in point are the swordfights where the relatively small stage ofthe Garrick appears to have the swordsmen pulling their punches, to mixmetaphors, seemingly worried that a bystanding cast member mightaccidentally get run through. What this show has going for it is the elementof danger of many of the stunts that take place. When it becomes apparentthat the cast know this too and start holding back, the thrill disintegratesquickly.

All this is not helped by some rather soppy characterisation. Diegohimself is more Orlando Bloom than Antonio Banderas, and his Luisa is anold-fashioned damsel in distress whose piny whining pales in comparison withthe ferocious spirit of the red-blooded female gypsy, Inez (LesliMargherita). The cast play these roles with passion but somehow what Diegocould possibly find attractive about this wilting rose of a heroine is lost.And why anyone thought a swashbuckling adventure needed a sissy, eggyromantic sub-plot that acts like a brake on the whole show is beyond me.

Supporting cast members outshine their leads. Special praise must go tothe members of the swing who carry the show and deliver brief moments ofgenuine excitement. Also worthy of praise is the nice comic turn from NickCavaliere as Sergeant Garcia, whose performance and look owes a big debt toDuane Doberman in The Phil Silvers Show, and the flamenco musicians whodeliver their material with great energy.

For me the real blow, however, is the clichd Disney-esque script, andthe insipid musical-by-numbers compositions. In comparison with LesMisrables, a tale of revolutionary resistance on an epic scale, it isutterly bland. The sense of fun and the incorporation of reasonablywell-executed illusions will make this show appealing to kids, but for theadults that go with them, its overwhelming banality may leave you wishing toperform a miraculous escape of your own.

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