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A CurtainUp London Review
Zorro the Musical
The musical base comes from The Gypsy Kings, a very popular group of Spanish French musicians whose music is "rumba flamenca". The influences are the Romani, the Spanish Flamenco and popular music. Some of the passionate unaccompanied singing that we associate with flamenco, "cante jondo" or deep song, features in Zorro giving atmosphere and strong emotion.
The story is the traditional one of Californian Don Diego (Matt Rawle), the son of Don Alejandro (Jonathan Newth) sent to study in Spain where his studies are interrupted when he meets a gyspy troupe and cavorts with the beautiful gypsy woman, Inez (Lesli Margherita) in the back streets of Barcelona. While he is away, his father is imprisoned secretly by Ramon (Adam Levy), the son of their servant who takes over power in the pueblo and cruelly keeps increasing the amount of taxes the farmers have to pay. Diego's childhood sweetheart Luisa comes to Spain to fetch him him and Diego returns.
In California, Diego finds that Ramon is a tyrant and that Luisa (Emma Williams) is to be married to Ramon against her will. Diego pretends to be Ramon's effeminate servant while he has a secret life as the masked and cloaked freedom fighter Zorro, whose trademark is the "Z" shaped cut with a sword. His name, El Zorro, means the Fox.
Zorro's first daring rescue is when he releases from the scaffold three men about to be hanged by Ramon for protesting at the amount of tax they have to pay. No one knows the identity of Zorro except Inez. Sgt Garcia (Nick Cavaliere) is Ramon's sidekick but a kinder man. He falls for the beautiful gypsy Inez, who is killed by Ramon.
The dialogue makes much use of the superhero status paralleling the story of Zorro with those of Superman, Spiderman, Batman and the other superheroes who live ordinary lives when not in superhero costume. Helen Edmundson, who has worked extensively with Shared Experience, has worked with Stephen Clark on the storyline for Zorro.
There are several flamenco dance numbers with the specialist gypsy dancers but also some routines which involve the whole cast in more conventional musical choreography. The gypsies wear tap shoes and dance to drums, guitars and violins, with castanets and tambourines. Emma Wiliams and Matt Rawle as Luisa and Diego have several pretty love duets, "Serenade" and "A Love We'll Never Live" while the villagers sing of freedom and "Libertad". The Gypsy Kings lively and hypnotic hit "Bamboleo" is sung by all to close the first act and reprised by Inez in the second. While I was watching I could feel some of the flavour of Les Miserables and I see that John Cameron is credited as co-composer for Zorro and he was responsible for the orchestrations on both shows.
The most spectacular sword fighting uses all of the tall whitewashed wooden set as Zorro exchanges rapier blows with Ramon on several levels leaping between them. The set has ladders and ropes and ramparts and is best viewed from the Circle. There are clever uses of fire with fire crackers bursting into a sudden flame to distract while Zorro makes yet another remarkable escape and the opening scene sees a giant, gas fuelled letter "Z" bursting into flames. There are several times when Zorro seems to appear from nowhere or makes an incredible escape just as Ramon thinks he has him cornered, thanks to illusionists Scott Penrose and Paul Kieve.
Adam Levy is rapaciously bad as Ramon while the handsome Matt Rawle keeps everything delightfully tongue in cheek, sings beautifully and seems to have unlimited energy. The potentially rather shocking branding of Ramon with the "Z" on his chest is kept low key. Emma Williams as Luisa has at last deservedly found a musical with good staying power which will allow her talent a popular run. Her rendition of "The Man Behind the Mask" is a sweetly, romantic ballad contrasting with the salsa beat of many of the other numbers. The musical was extensively work shopped in the USA and this preparation seems to have paid off.
Zorro the Musical is the finest and most exciting new show to come to London's West End and should be one for the whole family not to miss.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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