Review – Zorro the Musical, Garrick Theatre

Friday 8 August 2008

Gasp! The mark of the Whingers!

Michael Billington gave it four stars in The Guradian; so did Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail.

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”.

All of the main characters hit the mark: Adam Levy makes a genuinely scary nasty villain and Nick Cavaliere is terrific as the hapless and down-trodden Captain Garcia.

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?”


16 Responses to “Review – Zorro the Musical, Garrick Theatre”

  1. Oh, and by the way, a big thank you to Andrew, Whetstone whose comment prompted us to consider going to see Zorro and almost certainly influenced our decision more than either MB or QL did.

  2. Simone Says:

    Confession. I was just waiting for your review to decide whether to see this or not, now I have to! Cheers you guys and love the mark of the Whingers! By the by, who does your artwork?

  3. Well, we would do it ourselves but Phil’s eyesight isn’t what it was and Andrew’s hand shakes quite alarmingly so West End Whingers Enterprises now employs a team of artists based in our off-shore South Korea site.

  4. Sue Says:

    Wow. I am quite shocked. I’ll have to go and see this one now.

  5. webcowgirl Says:

    Jaw hanging open here. Did they steal all of the magic from The Wiz? There certainly was a vacuum of it in the Royal Festival Hall, though the air conditioning was working well … coincidence?

    Anyway, the rest of the gang (Sue, Simone, etc.) … shall we try to go together?

  6. Jason Says:

    I remember reading First Night review in the Guardian, and based on that would never have expected such enthusiasm. To the National with you! And to the Garrick for us to decide for ourselves.

    re: the mark of the Whingers, I was going to be very impressed if Andrew had expanded his artistic toolbox beyond root vegetables.

  7. Sue Says:

    That sounds like an excellent idea, webcowgirl.

  8. Simone Says:

    webcowgirl/Sue: Oh yeah I am up for it, but I am afraid I will only be available starting October as I am away on holiday, but if you want to see it soon it’s okay if you want to go ahead, we can catch a different one another time, maybe an outing with the WEW! 🙂

  9. she with he of Xanadu on stage seating Says:

    Totally agree that this is hugely enjoyable camp codswallop, but I am surprised that you have not noted the remarkable similarity of Ms Margherita (as Inez) with the winning entry of the vegetable sculpture category of this year’s Lambeth Country Show.

  10. Lesli Margherita is a Los Angeles based musical theatre actress that have had great sucess in Reprise shows such as “Zorba” and “Damn Yankees”. Reprise is LA’s answer to NY’s Encores- it stages semi-staged Broadway show revivals. She was also a regular on the short-lived American TV show “Fame-LA” in 1997.

  11. […] from the Whingers so I said yes anyway. 17 September Wednesday: Zorro. Shoot me, but (once again!) the Whingers said it was great, so I’m going. (Actually it’s a bit of a surprise that they said it was great, since […]

  12. […] the second half of the stalls, and I think it will be just about a perfect evening! (Thanks to the Westend Whingers for the recommendation – I would never have bothered […]

  13. webcowgirl Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, guys! Other than our shockingly crap seats (hadn’t had such bad ones since I got third balcony to see Spamalot), it was really a good night!

  14. […] have been planning to see this after the West End Whingers gave it such a very good review and now that my friends happened to be visiting, I thought they ought to see at least one good show […]

  15. […] bad: a completely crap show. They’ve sent me to shows I wouldn’t have considered (Zorro) and done their best to save me from the dogs (Gone With The Wind – The Musical! – saved! Fram – […]

  16. […] “a whale of a time” : West End Whingers Tagged as: Adam Levy, Emma Williams, gypsy kings, Lesli Margherita, Matt Rawle, Nick Caveliere, Reviews, zorro, zorro reviews […]

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