If you only see one show this Midsumma, you better make it Zanna Don’t, the award-winning musical that is gayer than High School Musical, with just as many hotties and a wickedly funny story line.
Set in a topsy-turvy world where everyone grows up gay the musical tells the story of camptastic ‘Zanna’, the high school cupid (played brilliantly by Samuel Kitchen) who just wants to make sure everyone has love, including his high school mates.
When Zanna and his high school buddies decide to stage a controversial school musical about ‘straights’ in the military, they never expect it to draw together a boy and girl who discover they have an attraction for each other. In the Zanna Don’t world, heterosexual relationships are forbidden and frowned upon. But how can Zanna make sure that everyone in the world is getting the love they need when the love of his two friends isn’t allowed? It’s down to the school cupid to try and make the world safe for them and help his friends overcome their ‘heterophobia’. With a touch of magic and a whole lot of heart Zanna makes the world safe for all lovers, and finds a love of his own in the process.
The reality of Zanna Don’t is not just one where gays are mainstream, but one where women are in power, and Chess champions are revered in favour of football jocks. It’s such a brilliant twist on our own and it’s very effective in allowing the audience to truly consider the true meaning of acceptance, and is very revealing of the prejudices and expectations that we all have. It also creates some really hysterically funny moments.
The message in Zanna Don’t really embraces diversity, and challenges the way we view love, in a way that everyone can connect with and understand. And despite the simplicity of its set up, it does so in a very authentic and genuine way that is fun and fresh, rather than predictable and cheesy.
Zanna Don’t features a really talented, sexy and dedicated cast that deliver a flawless convincing performance. It would be wrong to say that there was a stand out performer, as they are all really outstanding. The show’s music is as utterly infectious as are the performances, ranging from high-energy, soul-laden pop tunes, to rich character pieces and soaring ballads.
The carefully considered sets are brilliantly simple, multi-functional and very visual. The costumes are fresh and contemporary with just a touch of 50’s Americana. And might I mention well-fitting.
The show’s perfect pitch is all testament to a great production team and it’s director, who is a Melbourne talent in himself, Luke Gallagher.
Zanna, Don’t, is the show that brought Jai Rodriguez to light before he shot to fame on television’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Its original 2003 Off-Broadway production was hugely successful and was nominated for many major awards including Drama Desk – Best Musical; Best Music; Best Book and Best Lyrics, the 2003 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Award for Outstanding New York Theatre Production, as well as being voted Favourite Off-Broadway Musical in the Broadway.com Audience Awards.
The musical also received another 2003 GLAAD Media Award for its “fair, accurate and inclusive representation” of the gay community and issues that affect our lives.
Zanna Don’t is one of the best productions that I’ve seen at a Midsumma Festival in a long time. With a killer season guarenteed, this amazing production of Zanna Don’t is definitely destined for great things and big achievements not just here in Melbourne, but nationally. If you miss out on seeing it, you’re gonna kick yourself.
DIRECTOR – Luke Gallagher
COSTUME DESIGNER – Luke Taylor
SET DESIGNER – Andrew Bellchambers
Zanna Don’t plays at Chapel Off Chapel, Wednesday – Sunday, til 14th February 2009. Tickets are $35 adult available from the venue.