Zorro aficionados are sure to appreciate this review of Zorro The Musical by Zorro fan Kathryn Grant.
'Zorro: The Musical' Dazzles and Delights
The lights dim. The energetic strums of a Spanish guitar fill the theater. But it’s no recording — a live guitarist is standing on the stairs in the middle of the audience. His music pumps excitement into the room, building until a group of players burst onto the stage in a high-energy flamenco dance. And the dance ends with—what else?—a flaming Z in the center of the stage.
We’re at the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, Utah, just outside Salt Lake. This relatively small theater-in-the-round seats just over 600, and today it’s packed with an audience who has come to see the US premiere of “Zorro: The Musical.”
In this retelling of the Zorro story, Don Alejandro de la Vega is the alcalde of Los Angeles. He has two young sons, Ramon and Diego. Ramon is older and more serious, and he yearns for his father’s approval. But Alejandro seems to favor the more playful, less responsible Diego. Ramon's jealousy grows over the years and finally comes to a head when Alejandro chooses Diego to succeed him as alcalde. Diego panics, however, not wanting the responsibility, and he runs away to Spain.
Fast-forward several years. Luisa (Diego’s childhood friend and love interest) comes to Spain looking for him. When she discovers him living an idle life with a band of gypsies, she informs him that his father has drowned in an accident, and his brother Ramon has become the tyrannical new alcalde of Los Angeles. Luisa persuades Diego to return to California (the gypsies, of course, insist on coming along) and the stage is set for the birth of a hero.
HCT’s plays are double-cast. I attended a Saturday performance. Sitting on the third row, just feet from the actors, I could see them clearly. Their enthusiasm for the story was evident. The acting was superb and believable. Diego/Zorro combined earnest intensity with romance and a good measure of playfulness. Luisa was genuine with an undercurrent of strength—a perfect companion for the masked man.
Ramon wasn't just a one-dimensional villain, but a complex adversary who was his own worst enemy. Don Alejandro added support as the well-meaning father whose unintended favoritism had consequences he never anticipated. Sergeant Garcia and the gypsies provided comic relief and added heart to the play. And the flamenco dance numbers delighted the audience with their precision and energy—the product of hard work, practice, and the expert tutelage of flamenco dancer and choreographer Solange Gomes.
The stage itself was revealed to be unexpectedly complex. Different sections raised, lowered, and split apart, allowing for a great deal of flexibility in staging the various scenes. There was a lot of lively swordplay, though it was obviously carefully choreographed. The costumes were colorful and interesting without being obtrusive and detracting from the play (which in my mind is one of the best compliments one can give a costume designer).
And the music—the music was integral to the play’s success on several levels. First, it fit the story and the period without being clichéd. And the leads all had excellent stage voices. They sang beautifully and with intensity, but without any straining or belting to detract. Highest praise goes to the duets by Diego and Luisa (Derek Smith and Jacquelyne Jones). It’s hard to put into words the quality of the music they created. Their voices didn’t just harmonize, they blended at the place where singers go beyond themselves and find the best way to complement their partner’s voice, making the music come alive.
And the same Spanish guitarist who began the play, Raúl Adrián Benitez, was on stage with his guitar for most of it. What a great touch his presence and talent added to the play! He was as much fun to watch as the dancers, his fingers dancing expertly on the guitar.
The bottom line—this memorable retelling of the Zorro story is well worth seeing, with top-notch acting, dancing, and singing. Kudos to the Hale Centre Theatre! The bottom line—this memorable retelling of the Zorro story is well worth seeing, with top-notch acting, dancing, and singing. Kudos to the Hale Centre Theatre!
~ Kathryn Grant