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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Like the old lady with one buttock in Candide, they’ve gone “suddenly Spanish” at the Garrick: after Peter Pan, El Musical, we now have the swash and buckle of Zorro, the masked avenger otherwise known as Diego who goes from Los Angeles to Barcelona and back again fighting for freedom and an answer to the question on everyone’s lips: “Can a man be loved for who he really is?”

The music is by the pop Latino band the Gipsy Kings, and most of it is new, but less memorable than two of their biggest hits, “Bamboleo” and “Djobi Djoba,” both of which items prompt an onstage flamenco fiesta that sets feet tapping and blood racing round the stalls. Having just returned from holiday in Spain, I felt as though I was being condemned to sit through my own video diary.

The experience is not entirely unpleasant, even if Christopher Renshaw’s production of a tenuous story line by Stephen Clark (who also wrote the lyrics) and Helen Edmundson sometimes grinds to a halt before Rafael Amargo’s deliriously authentic choreography kicks it back into play.

Matt Rawle’s foxy Zorro discovers that his old dad (Jonathan Newth) is in prison and his sweetheart Luisa (Emma Williams) besieged by his wicked rival Ramon (Adam Levy). Donning cape and mask, he is asked by the gypsy queen Inez (a remarkable West End debut by the lubricious, hip-swivelling Lesli Margherita): “What are you going to do...entertain them to death?”

And when he finally swoops down to interrupt the firing squad lined up like figures in a Goya painting, Luisa sweetly enquires what took him so long. The masked marauder, who seems to sprout partners like magpies in woodland, retorts, slightly pained: “You try finding seven Zorro costumes around here.” Having slashed a bloody “Z” on Ramon’s chest, Zorro finds dusty old dad in the nick of time and...

The story of Diego de la Vega is far more complex and interesting in Isabel Allende’s novel (the writer is one of the producers), making much of the hero’s youth and Indian blood stock, the sweep of Napoleonic history and infinitely more thud and blunder over lost jewels, amorous rivalry and hereditary rights.

But Nick Cavaliere’s touchingly flawed good friend Garcia is a clever adaptation of Allende’s character, and the impassioned dancing and constant music of acoustic guitars and trumpets more than acceptable compensation. Not quite three cheers, then, but a definite ole...

- Michael Coveney


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