Zoot Suit (play)

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Zoot Suit
Zoot Suit play.jpg
1979 Broadway Playbill
Music Daniel Valdez and Lalo Guerrero
Lyrics Lalo Guerrero
Book Luis Valdez
Basis The Sleepy Lagoon murder trial
Productions 1979 Broadway
1981 film

Zoot Suit is a play written by Luis Valdez, featuring incidental music by Daniel Valdez and Lalo Guerrero, the "father of Chicano music." Zoot Suit is a fictionalized version of the real-life Sleepy Lagoon murder trial – when a group of Chicano youths were charged with a murder that they did not commit – and the Zoot Suit Riots.

Debuting in 1979, Zoot Suit was the first Chicano play on Broadway. In 1981, Luis Valdez also directed a filmed version of the play.


Henry Reyna (inspired by real-life defendant Henry Leyvas) is a Zoot Suiter "Pachuco" On his last night of freedom before beginning his Naval service he and his "gang" are accused of the murder of a rival "gangster" after a party. Unfairly prosecuted, the entire gang is thrown in jail for a murder they did not commit. The play is set in the barrios of Los Angeles, California in the early 1940s against the backdrop of the Zoot Suit Riots and World War II. The play is narrated throughout and most of the songs are performed by El Pachuco, an idealized Zoot Suiter. El Pachuco functions as a "Greek Chorus", commenting on the action of the play, and functioning as Henry's conscience. While in prison, Henry develops a crush on the legal aide working on his case, and his brother is wounded in the infamous Zoot Suit riots. The opinion of the public is given in the form of news headlines by a reporter who is sometimes a journalist and a radio broadcaster.

Broadway production[edit]

The play premiered at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles on August 17, 1978.[1] The Broadway production debuted at the Winter Garden Theater on March 25, 1979, and closed on April 29 after 41 performances. The production was directed by Luis Valdez and was noted for Edward James Olmos' portrayal of El Pachuco, a mythical figure that acts as a sort of Greek chorus to the action.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.centertheatregroup.org/_pdf/MTF_Production_History.doc

External links[edit]