Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 28 May 2022
Guest reviewer: Hope Priddle
Last seen in London in 2008, Zorro is back and ready to bring a taste of Spain to the Charing Cross Theatre. Set to a legendary soundtrack by the Gipsy Kings, this sizzling show follows the mysterious masked vigilante El Zorro in his efforts to defend the Pueblo of Los Angeles from a ruthless autocratic leader. Written by Stephen Clarke and Helen Edmundson, the book is pacey and exhilarating. Whilst drama and action undeniably motivate this production, it really shines in the quiet moments of passion and pathos between our central lovers.
Ben Purkiss is perfectly cast in the titular role. He is utterly endearing as the charismatic and courageous Diego, but he transforms into the suave crusader with ease.
Alex Gibson-Giorgio gives an accomplished performance as the tormented tyrant, and Diego’s estranged brother, Ramon. Gibson-Giorgio masterfully conveys Ramon’s internal conflict, inviting sympathy despite his character’s irredeemable actions.
Special mention must go to Marc Pickering as Garcia, who is tremendous as our comedic antagonist. Not only does he play the fool, but his character has real heart and displays a truly rewarding arc.
Despite its name, this production is all about its women. Phoebe Panaretos is a complete tour-de-force as the sensual, strong-willed Gyspy queen Inez. Her voice is rich and full-bodied, stealing the showing on more than one occasion. Panaretos leads a rousing rendition of Bamboleo at the end of Act One, captivating her audience in every way possible.
Paige Fenlon is similarly exquisite as Diego’s childhood friend Louisa. Louisa may appear innocent on first introduction, but a fire quickly ignites inside of her as she leads the Pueblo uprising. Fenlon’s heavenly vocals soar as her character finds her voice.
Panaretos and Fenlon are supported by a searing female ensemble who truly are the lifeblood of this production. Their vital choreography and visceral harmonious drive the action forward. During Libertad, the ensemble cries sympathetically as one, moving as a single pulsating body under sanguine lighting designed by Matthew Haskins.
Creative elements work in harmony to create a production which is immersive and evocative. The traverse staging, admittedly typical of productions at this venue, works to enclose the Pueblo and create a homely, intimate feel. Set and Costume Designer Rosa Maggiora does a tremendous job of world building. A multi-levelled set elevates the action, whilst aisles and doorways are used effectively for either flamboyant or stealthy entrances and exits. An actor-muso approach greatly compliments this production. Talented ensemble members play classical guitar and trumpets, recreating the sounds of 19th Century California. Moreover, the very stage itself becomes an instrument, integral as brass or string. As the cast stamp and stomp across the floor, they ‘play’ the boards and percussive sound fills the rafters.
With thrilling stage combat (Renny Krupinski) and impactful flamenco routines (Cressida Carre) led by the commanding Ajjaz Awad, this dynamic production is packed full of colour, texture and noise. It fully embraces its audience, sweeping them up into the spirited world of Spanish Gypsies and swashbuckling heroes.
photo credit: Pamela Raith
‘A dynamic production packed full of colour, texture & noise’: @RewriteThisWeb on @ZorroMusicalUK at @CharingCrossThr. ★★★★★ #musicals #theatrereviews #ZorroMusical #GypsyKings