The witching hour

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  September 18, 2007

If the music is any indication, the “alternative world” of Zanna, Don’t! is anchored to the early 1970s, with a bubblegum-pop score that just keeps chewing and smiling as an octet of coupling and uncoupling teens cheer for the chess team or rehearse the high-school musical, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which explores the controversial subject of heterosexuals in the military. No one understands a thing about football, but the girls have a mechanical-bull-riding team. Okay, the show’s a one-trick pony, but it’s a pretty good trick. And given the brightness of Paul Daigneault’s production (with musical direction by Paul S. Katz), which makes optimum use of young talent borrowed from Boston Conservatory, it holds up for most of its hour and 50 minutes, at the end of which its blissful gay bubble is popped in the name of tolerance.

Zanna, whose wand is the only thing in the musical that seems even vaguely sexual (unless you count the booty shaking), is a sunny teen with a handle on everyone’s love life but his own. In the mischievous person of Jordan Fife Hunt a cross between Cupid and Paul Reubens, he sets up chess hero Mike with football quarterback Steve and sassy Roberta with bookworm Kate, then presides over the suffering when Steve and Kate, thrown together in the hilarious gay-man’s-army musical, discover their unseemly attraction to each other. It’s all sweetly tongue-in-cheek if musically generic, with bits of disco, funk, and country thrown into the pop pastiche. The performers — six of them (including Elliot Norton Award nominee Stephanie Umoh) Boston Conservatory students — are talented and energetic, with Anich D’Jae adding a welcome R&B edge to the geeky proceedings. And all step smartly to David Connolly’s catchy choreography. Zanna, Don’t! isn’t Shakespeare (here the author of the romantic classics Romeo and Julio and Two Gentlemen of Verona) or Sondheim (never is heard a dissonant note). But it’s as peppy a trip to a yesteryear that never was as you could hope to take.

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Related: The games people play, Grief encounter, Play by play: October 23, 2009, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Boston Conservatory, Culture and Lifestyle, Gregory Maguire,  More more >
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