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Review of Zanna Don’t! at the Landor Theatre

Zanna Don't at the Landor TheatreIn no way am I going to start this review by saying something as cheesy as, “Zanna, don’t, they should call it Zanna, do”. Instead I’ll simply say “Zanna, don’t”, it’s really camp, it’s really political and it REALLY works.

Zanna is the candy-coloured story of Heartsville High, where chess players are the jocks and EVERYONE is gay. All love matches are the work of the impish Zanna (David Ribi) but he soon finds himself out of his depth when two of the student body come out as heterosexual. Suddenly their world is thrown into chaos as they’re forced to ask questions like, should straight people be allowed in the military?

Ok, so I never said this was subtle.

But then again, neither did the show, and that’s one of Zanna’s major strengths. It goes straight for the jugular in terms of political issues and you come out of it thinking “well I’m glad someone said it”.  It’s helped by a snappy script peppered with some great one-liners, which give the cast something to chew on and prevent them from going into full-on pantomime mode.

David Ribi’s matchmaker Zanna is a lesson in self-restraint, steering the character away from camp busy body and giving it a lot of heart. All of the cast handle the material like champs, but it was Jonathan Wooldridge who won out for delivery, especially as the cowboy with a sibilant s and a Texas twang. Jennifer Saayeng stole most of her scenes just with sheer personality, but her musical numbers were a revelation thanks to an amazing voice.

In terms of music “Zanna, Don’t” is equal to, if not better than some of the shows on the West End at the moment. Tim Acito’s music ranges from big show stoppers to pastiche numbers to a couple of rather beautiful ballads. I need to bring up the number Fast, performed at a tremendous speed (as the title suggests), which can’t be easy when your audience is sitting so close, leaving no room for mistakes.

The intimacy of the space clearly didn’t daunt director Drew Baker, who used every inch of it to full effect. Choreographer Tom Scanlon seemed determined to bring the West End to the Landor theatre and boy did he deliver with some big routines that (just about) managed to remain confined to the small stage (one or two scissor kicks nearly took my eye out). And likewise set designer Ben M. Rogers rose to the challenge and his mechanical bull can only be applauded.

The show is not without its faults, and its lack of an interval leaves a dip in the pacing just after the half way point. But at the heart of the show is the message of acceptance, and with the skill and talent on display you can’t help but be completely charmed. “Zanna, Don’t!” is one of many Off West End shows battling the big boys for some attention, and I can whole heartedly say it deserves it.

Review by Maximilian Sycamore

+++++++

Zanna, Don’t! is at the Landor Theatre 3rd to 29th June 2014 and is proudly presented by Entourage Productions.

Cast: David Ribi (Hairspray and Dreamboats and Petticoats) in the title role of Zanna.  Ceris Hine (Ushers) as Kate with Jennifer Saayeng (Colour Purple and Ghost) as Roberta,  Jonathan Dudley (Titanic and Scrooge) as Mike,  Liam Christopher Lloyd (Damn Yankees) as Steve,  Carol Heffernan as Candi,  Jonathan Wooldridge as Arvin,  Thomas Wright and Georgia Phillips as featured ensemble. With Ben Sell as Tank, and Zanna at certain performances.

Zanna, Don’t! – At Heartsville High, everyone is gay… well, almost everyone! The students write a controversial show called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ about straight people in the military, which encourages a young man and woman to acknowledge their true feelings and fall in love. It’s down to Zanna, a magical, musical fairy to wave his wand and bring happiness to all! Featuring wonderful characters and soaring songs, Zanna, Don’t! is an exciting and riotously funny show.

This musical fairy tale features Drew Baker as Director, Holly Hughes as Choreographer, Benjamin Holder as Musical Supervisor and Isaac McCullough as Musical Director.

Read our previous interview with CJ de Mooi on Zanna, Don’t!

For more information visit:
Twitter: @zannalondon
www.zannalondon.co.uk

Friday 6th June 2014

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