I was familiar with the story of Zorro before this musical. As a kid, I used to watch the old black and white TV series on a Saturday afternoon, and I went to the cinema to see the movie when it came out a few years ago. When I was offered the role, the big pull for me was the fact that I essentially get to play two different people: Diego, the man behind the mask, and Zorro himself. There’s a lot of fun to be had with that. I also get to do a lot of sword fighting, which boys love, and lots of magic tricks.
I had to prepare a lot for the sword-fighting. I went into training with Terry King, our stunt co-ordinator, just before Christmas. Apart from one week when I was on holiday, for the past six months, a day hasn’t gone by when I haven’t had a sword in my hand. It’s become second nature to me now. Zorro is meant to be one of if not the greatest swordsmen in the world, so if I wasn’t very good at it then that would show. Learning the choreography for the sword fights is like learning a dance routine. You have to know where the sword’s going to go and where you’re going to go. In addition to the sword fighting, I also had flamenco and magic workshops every day during rehearsals. I was really put through the mill!
I knew about four or five of the Gipsy Kings’ tracks before. When I first got the job, I’d be at the pub and my mates would ask if I was doing another musical - they couldn’t bear to sit through another one! But when I told them that I was doing Zorro and that the music was by the Gipsy Kings, they got excited and said they’d definitely come. I didn’t realise how popular their music is with loads of different types of people.
There have been a lot of changes made to the show. In the West End, it’s very different to the tour – in a good way. Adam Levy and Emma Williams are both new cast members and have brought a really positive dynamic with them. We’ve got rid of the pantomime elements and made it a lot more real. On tour, we were playing in very big audiences in very big houses, but the Garrick is a lot more intimate and this slightly more serious take works better here.
Of course, all the special effects are still in there - the rope swings and descents, the fire, the magic. These big effects take a while to get right. It wasn’t really a touring show, it was never completely satisfying on the road. You can’t rock up at a new venue each week and hope for effects like that to just work. But the tour was good in a sense as we got to see what worked and what didn’t.
- Matt Rawle was speaking to Kate Jackson
Zorro opened on 15 July 2008 (previews from 2 July) at the West End’s Garrick Theatre, where it’s currently booking through to 10 January 2009. The musical is directed by Christopher Renshaw and choreographed by Spanish choreographer and flamenco dancer Rafael Amargo.