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Review: ZORRO THE MUSICAL, Charing Cross Theatre

Strictly limited season until 28 May

Review: ZORRO THE MUSICAL, Charing Cross Theatre Review: ZORRO THE MUSICAL, Charing Cross Theatre

Zorro the Musical has lived many lives before its latest engagement at the Charing Cross Theatre. From the West End Production of 2008-09 to this production's first outing at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, which was cruelly cut short just two previews in by the pandemic. It now bursts into its new home with fiery abandon.

The music by The Gipsy Kings is the driving force that infuses every moment of this production with passion and heart. Their well-known hits, like "Baila Me", "Bamboleo" and "Djobi Djoba", are used to great effect in soaring celebrations of Gypsy culture which show off the stunning flamenco choreography by Cressida Carré. Some of the most intense moments come when the music and dancing are in full flow and it's breathtaking. Fight director Benny Krupinski brings the impressive sword fights to life and they are like a dance of their own.

Just as memorable as the hits are the original songs with lyrics by Stephen Clark (who also wrote the book, and the original story in collaboration with Helen Edmundson; co-composition and adaptation is provided by John Cameron). Each element is brought together in perfect harmony by director Christian Durham, also responsible for this new adaptation. Did I mention this show has lived many lives? Collaboration and community are themes that run through Zorro both on stage and off.

Using actor-musicians fits well with this story and creates an immersive experience from the moment you step foot in the auditorium. As the start of the show nears, the performers playing increase in both number and energy, and anticipation builds. What follows does not disappoint.

A storyteller (Pete Ashmore) tells us the tale of the legend of Zorro and the people of Los Angeles in 1805, then only a small pueblo. The prologue, complete with puppetry and narrated by the ensemble, sets the scene. Younger brother Diego (Benjamin Purkiss), the favoured son of nobleman Don Alejandro, is sent to school in Spain in preparation for one day inheriting his father's land and title. Older brother Ramón (Alex Gibson-Giorgio) is furious and feels cheated out of his birthright.

Years later, their childhood friend Luisa (Paige Fenlon) travels to find Diego, hoping he will return and save the pueblo from Ramón's oppression. Diego has found a new home with a band of Gypsies, led by the mesmerising Inez (Phoebe Panaretos). He lives a carefree existence, entertaining the masses with charm and exuberance and sleeping under the stars. Will he give that up to save his father's legacy?

The masked hero who the townspeople christen 'Zorro' is a mystery to everyone except Inez. His daring acts of heroism inspire rebellion in the streets. Suddenly, the people have hope for a better life and something to fight for. It's an uplifting message that leaves you feeling empowered, but there are also moments of pain. The juxtaposition between the moments of levity that can turn to drama with the snap of finger - or the swish of a sword - is emphasised by the atmospheric lighting design of Matt Haskins.

The intensity is broken up by Sergeant García (played with impeccable comic timing by Marc Pickering) and his faltering efforts to win Inez's heart. But it's only a brief respite as the story hurtles towards a dramatic conclusion befitting of the legendary hero.

This show really does span the full range of human emotion and will leave you wrung out and full of joy all at once. There is so much energy and passion on display from this talented company that it's impossible not to get swept up in the story and leave the theatre smiling.

Zorro the Musical is running at Charing Cross Theatre until 28 May



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From This Author - Caroline Cronin