If you’re a fan of swashbuckling señors and singing señoritas, the Alliance Theatre’s musical performance of “ZORRO” is the perfect fit (it’s so perfect, some of the señors sing and one of the señoritas even swashbuckles).
For many Americans, the dominating image of Zorro comes from the 1998 flick “The Mask of Zorro” staring the dashing Antonio Banderas in the lead role and seemingly-flawless Catherine Zeta-Jones as his love interest.
The musical variation puts a fairly different spin on the tale, as have so many variations before it, altering the plot and taking full advantage of the music of The Gipsy Kings, whose Spanish flamenco sound drives the songs and storyline.
While it may lack the star-studded action of the movie, this musical features a whirlwind of song and dance mixed in with enough campy humor and passionate drama to keep the audience entertained for three solid hours. (No worries; there’s an intermission. When will long movies start bringing these back?)
This version of Zorro tells the story of Diego de la Vega, the youngest son of the mayor of the Spanish colonial city of Los Angeles. Diego, the fun loving boy, is chosen to succeed his father as mayor and is sent to Spain to train at the academy, while the eldest boy, an usually regimented youth, is told he will be bypassed and eventually placed in charge of the military some day.
Diego falls off the path while in Spain and spends 10 years singing with gypsies and falling in love with the gypsy queen Inez. While he’s been perfecting his street performing skills, childhood love interest Luisa shows up and tells Diego he’s needed back home immediately, as his brother Ramon has killed his father and taken over the city — where he rules with an iron fist.
Unsure if he can fulfill his destiny, Diego and his gypsy family travel back to Los Angeles where Diego resorts to a risky and secretive plan to save the city’s oppressed citizens.
Pros and cons
I’m biased because I love musicals. People have, on occasion, mocked me for this love (as hard as I’m sure that it is to believe. Is a separate Pandora station for musical and Disney music really so extreme? On second thought, don’t answer that.).
There are some fantastic songs and dance scenes, and Jose Moreno, who plays the role of Ignacio, is one of the most nimble big men you’ll ever see. His tap dance-esque routine is a pleasure to watch. In another life, he would have made a good left tackle in football (I felt the need to throw in a manly reference).
However, even for me, there was too much music. The program boasts a performance with more than 30 songs and it feels like 30 songs.
I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an actual musical in person, and I’m used to movie versions where there’s more dialogue mixed in. Swap out a few songs for some more storyline, or remove those songs altogether, and I think you have a better experience.
The spin on the storyline had a lot of potential. By making the villain Diego’s brother, creative director Christopher Renshaw infused the conflict with even more drama than versions where Capt. Ramon is a leader with little backstory.
While that backstory explains some of Ramon’s actions, it doesn’t account for enough of them and he’s written as a completely unlikeable character. I understand he’s the villain, but my ideal story is one where the villain and hero are complex characters that leave the audience at times rooting for the villain and doubting the hero.
Ramon was turn into a crazed murderer with seemingly little capacity for rational thought and an inability to change.
The other characters were better crafted with female leads Inez and Luisa, in particular, showing the most intriguing character arches.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good time, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Luckily, a musical doesn’t rest entirely on the storyline, and this one has enough going for it that you can forgive a minor quibble that’s likely done for simplicity’s sake.