By Manning Harris
What’s not to like about “Zorro”? It’s a great big swashbuckling confection of a show. Zorro (the character) “personifies action, romance, humor, and heroism,” says the program at the Alliance Theatre’s spectacular new musical version, running through May 5.
You’ll get no argument from me. As a child, I loved the television “Zorro” (dating myself again), played by the dashing Guy Williams. Walt Disney personally produced the series, which gained international popularity. There have been movies through the years, usually quite good and lots of fun.
Fun—that’s the key word here, and a willingness to “jump on the ride,” as Artistic Director Susan Booth exhorts. I’m willing; from the moment you enter the theatre and see those theatrical red curtains draped across the entire proscenium arch and part of the “box seats” area, you know you’re in for a ride. And when you glance at the program and discover there are credits for Fight Direction, Illusions, Flying Effects, and a Flamenco Consultant—well, hold on to your seats.
1805, Spanish colonial California—Don Alejandro (Mark Kincaid) sends his young son Diego (Royce Mann) to Spain to military school. There he becomes friends with some vibrant Gypsies, especially the fiery Inez (Natascia Diaz). Ten years later his childhood friend Luisa (as a child, Mary Stuart Sullivan; now Andrea Goss) visits Spain to tell the now grown young man Diego (Adam Jacobs) that he must return home: Their old friend Ramon (child, Benjamin Harding; adult, Nicholas Carrière) has become a fascistic Captain of the Army and is terrorizing the populace; in addition, Diego’s father is either dead or missing.
What’s needed here is a hero—the masked fox himself—Zorro! But when Diego returns, he feigns an effete, milquetoast persona so that no one, especially Ramon, would suspect him capable of deeds of derring-do.
I haven’t mentioned the Gipsy Kings, internationally successful recording artists from the south of France, specializing in flamenco and rumba music. They wrote the songs, along with co-composer John Cameron and lyricist Stephen Clark. The original story is by Stephen Clark and Helen Edmundson, based on the novel by Isabel Allende. “The Curse of Capistrano,” written in 1919 by Johnston McCulley, is the first story to feature the character named Zorro. The production is directed by Christopher Renshaw; the choreography is by Rafael Amargo.
This is a huge show—the Alliance is undoubtedly the only theatre in town with the facilities and resources to pull it off. Although Director Renshaw says “Hopefully here we’re producing the definitive version (it has played in London and elsewhere) for America,” I suspect all parties concerned have Broadway in the back of their minds. Time will tell. Fine and fun as it is, I do think it could be shortened by about 15 minutes.
But you must not miss it. Adam Jacobs is excellent in the title role, with a fine singing voice. Natascia Diaz as Inez has that je ne sais quoi magnetism that makes it hard not to look at her. Andrea Goss’s Luisa is lovely and compelling. Nicholas Carrière’s Ramon, though a “bad guy,” is pretty dashing himself. Eliseo Roman as Sargeant Garcia does some fine comic acting. The music and dancing are quite hypnotic, even if you don’t find a song to hum on the way home.
And don’t worry about the long curtain call: You’re going to want to applaud, trust me.
For tickets and information, visit alliancetheatre.org.