Loading...
 

Theater Review - High school goes gay in Zanna, Don't

The Actor’s Express Theatre musical Zanna, Don’t! relies on a premise one might expect from “The Twilight Zone” had it originated on the Logo network. At Zanna, Don’t!'s Heartsville High School (and, implicitly, in the rest of the world) gay is the norm, while straight people are an oppressed, closeted minority.

??Creator Tim Acito (who also wrote the musical The Women of Brewster Place) delights in the implications of his alternative-lifestyle universe. Football is less popular than the school's chess or all-girl mechanical bull-riding teams, and controversy breaks out over whether the library should keep a copy of Heather Has One Mommy and One Daddy. The students stage an original musical about the hard-hitting issue of straights in the military, but when football star Steve (Nick Morrett) and bull rider Kate (Caitlin Smith) sing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” onstage, they feel the love that dare not speak its name at Heartsville High. ??Director Freddie Ashley strives to give Zanna, Don’t! a light touch analogous to the singing and dancing teens of High School Musical. As if the play’s central gimmick weren’t quirky enough, its eponymous lead (choreographer Ricardo Aponte) turns out to be a cheerful, self-appointed Cupid. Zanna talks to birds and plays matchmaker with an actual magic wand, as established in the opening number, “Who’s Got Extra Love?” In addition to overseeing the production’s vivacious dance steps, Aponte shows off puckish enthusiasm and rock-star moves, but doesn’t have the pipes to carry the central songs. Of the rest of the cast, Morrett and Jimi Kocina (as Steve’s jilted boyfriend) both sing sweetly, but Smith’s ringing voice proves conspicuously more forceful than the rest.??The magical shtick of Zanna, Don’t! makes for some painful would-be whimsy, particularly the jokes involving the wand as a phallic symbol. Nevertheless, the spells pay off near the end of the show with a surprising twist. The superficially upbeat number “Straight to Heaven” contains an ominous subtext that gives the show an unexpected kick despite all its bubblegum optimism.
Overall, Acito’s catchy melodies and playful lyrics flavored with rock and country, celebrate love with old-fashioned, irony-free abandon. Kocina puts his heart into the joyous “I Think We Got Love,” while the cast keeps up with the high-speed tongue twisters of the frivolous Western patter song “Fast.” Despite an inconsistent production, Zanna, Don’t! serves as a master class in silly love songs.



More By This Writer

Article

Wednesday September 2, 2020 03:17 pm EDT
What to do when the big screen is dark | more...

Article

Wednesday August 5, 2020 06:41 pm EDT
Documentaries capture the costs of rebuilding | more...

Article

Tuesday June 30, 2020 11:52 am EDT
Celebrate July 4 with ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’ and more | more...

Article

Tuesday June 2, 2020 08:00 am EDT
Lockdown invites a closer look at 'Becky,' 'Shirley,' and other VOD releases | more...

Article

Friday May 1, 2020 12:00 am EDT
Saving a local landmark; screening double features at home | more...
Search for more by Curt Holman

[Admin link: Theater Review - High school goes gay in Zanna, Don't]