Review: Zanna, Don’t! at London's Landor Theatre
A five-star triumph of a show that delivers an important message without getting preachy...
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Imagine a world where everyone is gay. Welcome to Heartsville High, a neon-bright fantasy world where the boys date boys and the girls get the girls. School stud and ultimate sex symbol is Mike, the captain of the chess team, while new quarterback Steve has to earn his cool with a part in the school musical.
Zanna is the campus matchmaker – bringing joy to all and liberally unleashing jets of love from his magic wand. Everything is carefree and candy-cane perfect, until the students decide to stage a musical addressing the taboo topic of heterosexuals serving in the military…!
This joyful jaunt to an alternate universe is a dazzling delight. Bright, colourful, and extremely silly – but in all the right ways. Conventions of camp and gay clichés are all turned upside-down in a world where the love that dare not speak its name is that between a man and a woman.
David Ribi as Zanna takes us by the hand and guides us through this parallel paradise with talent and charm, breaking our hearts as he uses his magical matchmaking to benefit everyone except himself, ultimately making a supreme sacrifice that changes things for everyone… We wept.
There is a staggering amount of talent on display here. Ceris Hine delights with her own unique brand of seamless slapstick, bringing Kate – captain of the girl’s intramural mechanical bull-riding team – to life with exquisite skill. Jonathan Wooldridge is adorable as the geeky Arvin, and also excellent when teamed with the equally appealing Thomas Wright as an older couple doling out man-advice to the younger boys. Cute-as-a-button Jonathan Dudley impresses throughout as Mike, tugging at our heartstrings as his unrequited love-story unfolds with quarterback Steve - winsomely portrayed by the hunky Liam Christopher Lloyd.
Jennifer Saayeng is perfect as Roberta, the sassy waitress who’s unlucky in love, dishing up a performance that comes with a memorable serving of sauce. And Ben Sell excels as Tank, the school radio DJ who comes to the fore at the climax, spreading his wings in style.
Inventive and stylish choreography by Tom Scanlon ensures that the piece rattles along at a fantastic rate, never pausing for breath. Memorable and catchy songs are belted out one after the other, superbly supported by the on-stage band, led by extremely talented (and easy-on-the-eye) musical director Isaac McCullough.
A five-star triumph of a show that delivers an important message without getting preachy. A cathartic emotional enema that glitters throughout. As one of the characters sagely informs us – ‘There’s no such thing as too many sequins’. An absolute must-see.
Zanna, Don’t! runs at the Landor Theatre until June 29th. For more, visit landortheatre.co.uk.
Words Richard Unwin, @Richard_Unwin
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