I’m not sure if the title of Zanna, Don’t! is playing with the word Xanadu, but what I do know is that I had a better time seeing this new version of the science fiction musical than I did at its previous incarnation five years ago at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Zanna, Don’t! is set at Heartsville High, in a world where gay is the norm, the big man on campus is a chess champion and the captain of the football team is made cool by being cast as the lead in the school musical. Some students actually write a controversial show about straight people being allowed to serve in the military, which becomes the catalyst for a boy and a girl in the group to fall in love.
Enter Zanna, a singing and dancing fairy who, with some magic and a wave of his wand can bring true love to one and all, including himself at the end. Tim Acito wrote the book (also the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Alexander Dinelaris), much in the vein of Grease, but despite references to that piece and the 1960s feel, it’s nothing like a parody of that famous show.
The cast is dynamic and full of fresh faces, many of them just graduated from musical theatre courses, and this works well with the mood and content of the show. David Ribi is both amusing and moving as Zanna, as is Ben Sell as love interest Tank.
Among the women, Jennifer Saayeng stands out for both her vocals and mature performance. The choreography by Tom Scanlon really uses the small stage to full effect as does Drew Baker’s clever direction.
The brightly coloured costumes by Andrew Cox also add to the camp look of the whole affair, which is basically unpretentious and light, without being fluffy. All in all, a fun and fast-paced show that could lend itself naturally to school productions, with its healthy message of tolerance.
Readers may also be interested in:
Best of Friends – Landor Theatre – Review