ZORRO: THE MUSICAL Makes Its Mark in Skokie
Music Theater Works is living large with its regional premiere of the musical Zorro:The Musical at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, which is a jump up from the Cahn Auditorium of yesteryear. Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan is stepping on the gas with this post Covid season for this venerable suburban based company. It is exciting to see a musical that brings a LatinX director, cast and theme and some Spanish language and lyrics to a suburban stage. And director Adrian Abel Azevedo notes this is a tale with personal history.
Purportedly based on the Isabel Allende book about this legendary character (very loosely if true) it tells the story of Diego, a never do well son of the local leader of a colonial outpost in New Spain (California here but technically Mexico). Played here by Cisco Lopez, his Diego is sympathetic, complex and funny and not too bad with a sword. Diego grows up with his father’s ward Luisa (played by angel voiced Laura Quinones) a bumbling pal Garcia (J. Christian Hill) and his milk brother Ramon (wet nurses were a thing then). Papa Alejandro sends Diego to Spain to train at the military academy where he soon drops out and falls in the Gypsies, led by the strong and independent Inez (played by Alix Rhode who was born for this part). A note here: I have been told that Gypsy is a pejorative and racist term and not used any longer– the correct term is Roma, but the music is written by the popular band The Gipsy Kings and the play itself uses the term to describe the entourage of women that surround our hero Diego and immigrate back with him when he returns from Spain to bring justice to his pueblo. He sails back after Luisa tracks him down to tell him that Ramon (played with misguided furor and hurtful pain by Emmanuel Ramirez) has let power and colonialism go to his head and has begun to utilize repressive and punitive methods to solidify his power, including executions and overt sexual harassment of Luisa. I was pleased to see an intimacy director credited for this show: Sheryl Williams. An intimacy director keeps the actors safe and choreographs scenes of physical and sexual closeness so that performers are clear about boundaries.
There are plot twists and turns, amazing dancing including dazzling numbers where production collaborator Ensemble Espanol stuns with flamenco virtuosity. Of particular note was a rousing Bambaleo that closed the first act. The choreography by Laura Savage and Luis Beltran Urena is outstanding; passionate, athletic and physically embodying the plot line. There are also many solid sword fights by Nick Sandys. As the run continues they will, I hope, speed up a bit to achieve a breathtaking quality.
There were some opening night sound glitches and the wig on Alejandro/Old Gypsy needs immediate replacement but this is a musical you go to for the music and dancing and it delivers! As I left the theater, the audience was literally dancing up the aisles. This is hot blooded full bodied entertainment.
Zorro: The Musical at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie is a short run– you only have until August 21 to catch the Wednesday through Sunday shows. For tickets and information go to MusicTheaterWorks.com. They have special deals for under 25’s you won’t want to miss!