Director: Christopher Renshaw
Music: The Gipsy Kings
Book and Lyrics: Stephen Clark
Details: Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0HH
Tube: Leicester Square
Performances: Mon-Sat 7.30 pm, Matinees Thu and Sat 3 pm
Running time: 2h40
In short: Sword fighting, magic tricks and fire add to the masked man's appeal.
In full: Flamenco dancers stomp across a slightly cramped wooden stage. Colourfully clad townspeople belt Gipsy Kings lyrics. A giant letter Z bursts into flames. All this, within the first five minutes of the show dedicated to Don Diego de la Vega: El Zorro, The Fox, the epee-brandishing man behind the mask.
The disguised avenger has seen plenty of reincarnations since appearing in American pop culture in 1919. There was the 1981 version - Zorro, the Gay Blade - in which the 'zexy' hero had a gay twin brother in the British Royal Navy. Then Hollywood placed Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the midst of the swashbuckling in 2005. The West End show and the Banderas flick are both based on a novel by best-seller Isabel Allende, who signed on as a producer for the musical.
This latest journey with the masked vigilante follows a surprisingly comical script that, combined with the heel-grinding flair of traditional Spanish dancing, makes for one big fiesta. In early 19th-century, Mexican-ruled California, the stonehearted and narcissistic Ramon bullies his people into misery and starvation. Ramon has his eye on Luisa, who actually loves the dishy Don Diego. The problem? Don Diego left for university in Spain and somehow ended up as a magician travelling with a band of gypsies.
Until Luisa tracks him down with bad news. His father, Don Alejandro, is dead, and the city is falling apart. Don Diego gathers the gypsies - including his saucy, outspoken love interest Inez - and returns home to deliver rope-swinging, sword-clanking justice.
Rawle exaggerates his role to perfection, simultaneously poking fun at his chivalry and cheekily flaunting his romantic know-how. Even his fashion choices become comic material, as he and the equally funny Inez (Lesli Margherita) decide that he should disguise in black not because it's sneaky, but because of its widely touted slimming quality.
With a musical score by the Gipsy Kings and a number of how'd-he-do-that onstage stunts, Zorro possesses the mass appeal of a show that could suit anyone from a West End first-timer to a theatre vet seeking something different. Audience members openly groan with pity for the squat romantic Sergeant Garcia during his stilted pursuit of Inez, and they raucously sing along with (and sometimes dance to) classic tunes like Bamboleo and Baila Me. The level of audience participation is questionable, but don't fight it: The show's only scheduled until January 2009, so grab your cape and head for the Garrick.
- Jill Hilbrenner
- 'Zorro is trying something different. He is singing and dancing in a lavish new musical which was tipped to be a turkey, yet which opened to rave reviews at the Garrick Theatre.' Petronella Wyatt, The Daily Mail
- 'Add in plenty of swinging around on ropes, some excellent sword fights, real flames and a couple of jaw-dropping stage illusions, and you have a tequila slammer of a musical. Viva el Zorro!' Christopher Hart, the Sunday Times