Gasp! The mark of the Whingers!
What could possibly pique your curiosity more?
What further motivation could you need to entice you to the Garrick see a musical based on the legend of Zorro with music by the Gipsy Creams Kings?
What in all the heavens is this artistic creation which can unite left and right, highbrow and lowbrow in a big old bear-hug of bonhomie? Who is Zorro (the musical)?
To be fair, the Whingers did have a further reason for going.
If you think about it – although you almost certainly haven’t – the Whingers have their own spooky parallels with Zorro.
He is a mysterious, handsome, athletic and slightly camp hero who avenges the injustices inflicted on the oppressed underdogs of 1805 California.
And Andrew and Phil delude themselves into believing that they are mysterious, handsome, athletic heroes avenging the injustices inflicted on innocent theatregoers at 1930 or 2000 Monday to Saturday (plus mats).
Phil also thinks that Andrew is a bit camp sometimes.
Anyway, would Zorro be the Whingers’ new Xanadu (currently featuring Whoopi Goldberg in its Broadway cast incidentally) or would there be flaming Zzzzs emanating from Andrew’s gob? Would they get carried along by the rapturous joy of gipsy jinx or would the pulsating footbeats of the flamenco be drowned out by the sound of the Whingers stomping out before the interval?
Remember this was the same theatre that, earlier this year, offered board and lodgings to that veritable Spanish stinker Peter Pan – El Musical, even though the Whingers didn’t actually get round to seeing it.
So the level of anticipation was as high as Andrew’s personal hygiene standards in the overly warm Garrick Theatre which incidentally went way beyond the call of duty in recreating the warmth of the show’s Spanish and California settings by turning the auditorium into a furnace. This immediately put paid to one of the Whingers’ many theories regarding the show’s ecstatic reception – that the management had slipped some mood-enhancing narcotic (possibly based on some kind of cactus) into the air conditioning. There was no air conditioning.
Anyway, for the first 20 minutes or so the Whingers sat with their arms folded across their (athletic) chests in that “Go on then, entertain me” position that they sub-consciously adopt when seeing things that have received enthusiastic reviews.
Now as anyone who has had the misfortune to sit through an entire first act of flamenco at Sadlers Wells can tell you – a little of it goes a very long way indeed. And 20 minutes in – with a lot of stomping and hurried exposition nothing in the way of a showtune – the Whingers were feeling – in spite of the lack of air conditioning – rather frosty about the whole thing.
But in the face of such fun, such charm, such joie de vivre, such good humour, such self-effacement, such swashbuckling, such panto, such action, such sets, such wigs, such good humour they suddenly and quite uncharacteristically melted.
And it didn’t matter a jot that some of the numbers sounded like Eurovision entries from years gone by when Spanish (rather than Eastern European) rhythms were the sound du jour.
Matt Rawle is delightful as Diego/Zorro – he’s both dashing and charming and proves a talented deliverer of comic lines as when his sweetheart Luisa (Emma Williams) complains that she and Zorro are not equals because although he can see her face, she cannot see his. With an air of great mysteriousness he redundantly replies: “That is because I am wearing a mask”.
But just as the characters in Zorro ask, “Who is the man behind the mask?” the Whingers were asking each other the much more pertinent question “Who is Lesli Margherita (gipsy woman Inez)?” and why haven’t they seen her before?
Margherita was already pandering to Andrew’s sensibilities by being named after a vegetarian pizza and to Phil’s by sounding suspiciously like his cocktail of choice. The Whingers couldn’t take their eyes off her and as every foot stomping dance routine seemed to top the last with a swirl of colour and energetic movement eyes were drawn to her extraordinary star quality. Flinging herself into every routine with the enthusiasm Phil and Andrew normally only see in each other at last orders the poor woman even managed to maintain her incredible vivacity dressed in red velvet and in Garrick Theatre temperatures which would top an August night in Malia.
So hooked was Andrew that he declared that from now on he will only be going to see shows which feature Lesli Margherita.
Full marks as ever to Paul Kieve for his delightful sleights of hand, to director Christopher Renshaw for the paciness,fluidity and extremely well-judged tone, to lighting designer Ben Ormerod and to designer Tom Piper for the most extraordinarily nimble set which transforms itself completely within mere seconds – the National Theatre should take him on now and for ever.
And, of course, the Whingers bow deeply to stunt co-ordinator Terry King for the top notch sword-fighting which Rawle and Levy go at like hammer and tongs – thrilling stuff.
And so it was that 2 hours and 40 minutes of what to the Whingers had looked on paper like a perfect recipe for disaster simply flew by. And while the Whingers weren’t quite on their feet with the rest of the audience at the end (and while if they never hear “Bamboleo” again in what little is left of their lives it will be too soon) they had a whale of a time.
What’s Zorro‘s secret? On that the Whingers are none the wiser but they didn’t have much time to think about it – a routine medical check revealed that their cynicism levels were dangerously low and the temperature of their hearts had alarmingly risen above the level of “cold”.
Doctors have advised them to see something at the National Theatre as soon as possible.
This doesn’t really do it justice:
The enthusiasm exuding from the cast, (who look like they’re having as good a time as the audience) seems to extend to the front of house staff. When confronted by the Whingers, demanding to know how much two programmes cost, the delightfully cheerful sales girl struggled to come up with an answer. She proved to be the biggest sport of the evening by not being the slightest bit phased by Andrew’s follow up query: “In that case, how much would one bag of crunchy chocolate nuggets, a tube of lockets, two Zorro masks and two programmes cost?”