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A CurtainUp Review
The Original Review by Macey Levin
The new musical Zanna Don't! currently at the Rodney Kirk Theatre on 42nd Street's refurbished Theatre Row would satisfy Gilbert and Sullivan's topsy-turvy view of the world. The show takes place in Heartsville, America, where gay relationships are the norm (of course, there is no explanation as to how new members of the population came along,) and a heterosexual is seldom if ever seen. They are also the subject of great pity and sympathy by the citizens of Heartsville.
The central character, Zanna, is an androgynous teenager who, with the aid of his magic wand, romps through his high school and other teen age hangouts as a Yenta the Matchmaker, pairing off couples like Mike and Steve or Roberta and Kate. But thunder strikes Heartsville when a heterosexual relationship develops. Zanna devises a solution that allows everyone to live happily ever after and also brings him Tank, his true love.
The show bounces from bright to trite but there are some clever lines and funny bits. A high school musical dramatizes a controversial issue in town: heterosexuals in the military. One of the romantic duets in the show-within-the show is entitled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The heterosexual couple contemplates going to San Francisco because "…I heard there are straight people there." At one point, a character announces, "My moms are going to freak!!" There are other bits that pop in just as Urinetown uses and satirizes Broadway shows and historical references.
Despite the reverse twist, the book written by Tim Acito is predictably conventional as are the themes which proselytize love and respect for everyone regardless of sexual orientation and that one must be true to oneself. These ideas are repeatedly hammered home.
The music and lyrics, also by Acito, cover a broad range of styles from disco to pop rock to country to romantic ballads. Much of it is generic and you don't catch yourself whistling any of it while exiting the theatre, though there are, again, some clever lines in the songs. Still, the music fits the piece and on that basis is integral and entertaining. The choreography by Devanand Janki, who also directed the show, is pedestrian and repetitive, but it is buttressed by the cast's talents and energy.
And that is the key to the production. The dynamic and effervescent cast of eight possesses terrific musical comedy voices and engaging stage personalities. Working as an ensemble, each actor has key scenes and solos. Their stereotyped characters are more than likeable thanks to the vitality and stage sense they display. Their enthusiasm jettisons off the stage and wraps itself around you.
This show is not very subtle but theatre does not always have to be full of symbolism and profundities. This is a piece, despite its heavy-handed moralizing and preaching, that is very entertaining. Though the music and the staging are less than innovative, the work of the cast is exhilarating. Is it worthwhile to see Zanna Don't? In a word. . . DO!
For a scrolling color picture of the cast go to the Zanna web site
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