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ZORRO - THE MUSICAL

ZORRO - THE MUSICAL

REGIONAL PREMIERE
Music by The Gipsy Kings and John Cameron
Book by Stephen Clark and Helen Edmundson
Lyrics by Stephen Clark
Based on the novel by Isabel Allende

Plaza Theatre Company

Directed by G. Aaron Siler
Stage Management – Casey Covington
Music Director – Shannah Rae
Choreography – Brittany Jenkins
Fight Choreographer – Ashley H. White
Assistant Fight Choreographer – Carlo Aceytuno
Costume Design – Tina Barrus
Light Design – G. Aaron Siler/Cameron Barrus
Sound Design – G. Aaron Siler
Set Design – G. Aaron Siler
Zorro Flying Design – Mel Diyer
Properties – Stormy Lee

CAST

Diego De La Vega – Jesse Bowron
Luisa – Meredith Browning
Ramon De La Vega – Matt Victory
Inez – Courtney Mitchell (Playing the part on opening night) and Shannah Rae
Sgt. Garcia – Freddy Martinez
Don Alejandro De La Vega – Jay A. Cornils
Teniente Gonzales – Robert Shores
Padre – Quentin Scott
Eduardo -Nolan Moralez
Ignacio – Ethan Leake
Jorge – Toby Burris (Playing the part on opening night) and Jacob Renfroe
Young Ramon – Anthony Sullivan
Young Diego – Gavin Clark
Young Luisa – Amanda Foster and Jentry Sullivan (Playing the part on opening night)
Soldiers – Robert Shores, IJ Meachem, Ethan Leake, Toby Burris, Jacob Renfroe, David Midkiff.
Ensemble – Alex Owens/Rachel Browning, McKenna Meachem, McClain Meachem, David Midkiff, Eden Barrus, Nolan Moralez, Alina Jennings, Joshua McLemore, Monica Glenn, Alaina Gunter, Anna Looney, Pam Valle.


Reviewed Performance: 10/13/2017

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

One of the wonderful things about getting to review plays is the chance to see theatre companies I hadn’t had the opportunity to see before. Except for Runway Theatre in Grapevine, I have seen the majority of shows at theatres unknown to me. And all have been wonderful experiences. Such was the case with Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne. They have an intimate theatre in the round which was very comfortable (It was announced they are moving into a new facility next year that was described as a more comfortable facility) and produced a very professional show. They have a season ticket base of 1,100 subscribers and the show we saw is the first production in Texas and only the third in the United States. That is very impressive.

And I got to see opening night on Friday the thirteenth. What a perfect day to see a show based on the Novella “The Curse of Capistrano” by Johnston McCulley with a mysterious hero all dressed in black. But there was no curse in the theater and good luck followed our hero and the entire cast throughout the performance. Zorro the Musical is a rousing good time for all.

I have been fascinated with the character of Zorro since I was a child. The first Zorro I saw was the Walt Disney produced series from the late 50’s with Guy Williams as Zorro, Gene Sheldon as Bernardo (Zorro’s trustworthy and manservant), and Henry Calvin as the bumbling yet honest Sargent Garcia. I have seen several film versions since then, including the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks vehicle, the 1940 movie “The Mark of Zorro starring Tyrone Power (he’s right up there with Guy Williams for me), as well as the 1998 movie “The Mask of Zorro” with Antonio Banderas. So, I was really excited about seeing this show. When I hear someone shout “el Zorro” (the fox), I know I’m going to see lots of action and sword fights and I am going to be in little boy heaven for the next several hours.

Zorro the Musical is based on a fictional biography By Isabel Allende and is a prequel to “The Curse of Capistrano”. This is an origin story and, in addition to original material, uses the movies as resources. So, we are introduced to the future Zorro as the child Diego De La Vega playing with his childhood friend Luisa and arguing with his older brother Ramon. In walks Don Alejandro De La Vega, the father of the two boys, and tells Diego that he is being sent to Spain for education and training to prepare him to take his father’s place as leader of Los Angeles. Ramon is told he will be the head of the army. Both protesting sons are told that what is done is done and to be content with it. And the seeds of dramatic conflict are sown.

We are then taken ten years in the future with Diego (Played by Jesse Bowron) in Spain, having run off from the academy and to join a band of gypsies as a performer. Luisa (Played by Meredith Browning) arrives from Spain to inform Diego that his brother Ramon (Played by Matt Victory) has appointed himself leader at the death of his father and rules Los Angeles with an iron fist. Diego reluctantly agrees to go back to California with her, much to the consternation of his gypsy lover Inez (played on October 13th by Courtney Mitchell), who decides to accompany Diego, along with the entire gypsy band, to ensure that Luisa does not replace her in Diego’s heart.

Upon arrival In Los Angeles, Sargent Garcia (Played by Freddy Martinez) boards the ship with troops and reluctantly announces that the ship must be searched. Diego, realizing that a direct confrontation would result in his arrest, decides to adopt the guise of a masked crusader to fight the injustice inflicted by Ramon by night but presents himself to his brother as a subservient fool, willing to do Ramon’s every whim. And off we go.

This production is a cavalcade of wonderful music, great choreography, colorful costumes and some memorable performances. The music is pre-recorded but the sound system makes it sound very present. Written by the Gipsy Kings and John Cameron with lyrics by Stephen Clark, the music is bold and alive with the gypsy spirit and passion (I may be mistaken, but the music sounded like it was recorded by the Gipsy Kings or a very talented anonymous ensemble using their arrangements). Adding to this fiery background is the passionate choreography provided by Brittany Jenkins. The dances are fluid and fun and, when needed, dramatic and demanding (a dance with the women of Los Angeles utilizing chairs is a wonderful example). The music and the dancing alone are enough to have you bouncing in your seat throughout the night.

But where would Zorro be without the sword-play? Not to fear-the fencing work in this production is excellent (Thanks to Fight Choreographer Ashley H. White and Assistant Fight Choreographer Carlo Aceytuno). Considering the limited space they must work with, the sword fighting is fast and thrilling, conveying just the right amount of danger to get the audience on the edge of their seats. Director and Set Designer G. Aaron Siler has provided a great space for all this to happen and, with minimal set pieces, takes us from a boat to a cave to the plaza of the city to a dungeon and allows space for dancing and fighting and for (“Yes!” says my inner little boy) Zorro swinging in on a rope. Costume Designer Tina Barrus provides wonderful costumes for the towns people and gypsies and soldiers and with the lights (designed by G. Aaron Siler and Cameron Barrus) and the use of smoke effects give a magical presence to the proceedings.

Two performances dominated the production and part of that is due to the construction of the script. In the previous stories, women are confined to be the romantic obsession of Diego/Zorro. In this production, Luisa and the gypsy Inez are powerful people, strong in their convictions and willing to act to do what is right. Meredith Browning give a great performance as Luisa, a woman incensed by the injustice around her and willing to put herself at risk to set people free. Through her singing and performance, Ms. Browning touchingly shows the character’s disappointment in Diego when she sees the subservient man she brought back from Spain and the awakening of passion when she meets Diego’s alter-ego Zorro. Courtney Mitchell’s Inez is a powerhouse. At first Jealous of Diego’s affection toward Louisa, Inez sees the injustice around her and, with Diego/Zorro, takes covert action to thwart it. Ms. Mitchell has an excellent singing voice and fiery presence in the dance numbers. Both women are worth rooting for.

Freddy Martinez as Sargent Garcia is also a stand out. I have loved the character of Garcia since the Disney version and Mr. Martinez made him just as bumbling and honest as I remember. His Garcia is a man aware of the injustice he is participating in but feels helpless to do anything about it. It’s a delightful performance to watch, combining humor and emotion to make Sargent Garcia a character you will cheer for as much as the leads.

The anchor of the show should be the character of Diego/Zorro but because of the addition of the strong female characters in the plot line and the performance of Jesse Bowron, the role pales a little bit. Mr. Bowron has a good face for the part and his performance as the sycophantic fool Diego presents before his brother Ramon is wonderful (And very reminiscent of George Hamilton’s performance in “Zorro the Gay Blade”, which I mean as a compliment because I love that film). His Zorro suffers a little bit because his posture is a little hunched rather than straight, which detracts from the strength of the character. Again, I think the storyline affects this because instead of coming from the academy with the manners and military knowledge as is shown in some of the movies, this Diego has spent years with the gypsies as a free spirit. Some of the discipline and strength from training would have helped make the character a bit stronger and would be indicated by the way he holds himself. His singing voice is not as strong as some of the others, though he has a wonderful duet with Luisa in “A Love We’ll Never Live”. Continued performances will, no doubt, provide needed confidence and added dimensions that Mr. Bowron can explore (and Jesse, this is my opinion, and as my brother has said, opinions are like noses-everyone can pick one).

Also of note is the performance of Matthew Victory as Ramon De La Vega. Ram-rod straight and dressed in suits of light like a matador, Mr. Victory shows a brother’s jealousy which has grown to the point of megalomania. His Ramon is a tyrant, willing to kill to maintain his hold on his partly illusionary fiefdom. The pain of a hurt little boy is constantly on the surface in this performance, only to shoved to the dirt by the arrogance the bull-fighter, struggling to subdue the bull. Matthew makes a memorable bad guy.

The rest of the cast is to be commended for the joy and energy they put into everything they do. They provide the passion that drives the story through to the end. The play also has a great deal of humor, including some contemporary references and a wonderful scene where the townspeople come up with the name “el Zorro” (he could have been “el ratto”) much to the chagrin of Diego.

So, if you like action and passion on stage, make your trip to Cleburne. You will happily find it there. The show may even make you shout “Ole!”

ZORRO – THE MUSICAL
Plaza Theatre Company
111 South 111 South Main Rd.
Cleburne, TX 76033
October 13th - November 11th, 2017 – 7:30PM
October 21, 28, November 4, 11 – 3:00PM
For Tickets and information call (817) 202-0600 or go to
www.Plaza-theatre.com
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