|A Musical Fairy Tale|
Tim Acito |
Tim Acito |
2003 Off-Broadway |
2013 New Zealand
2018 Fort Lauderdale
Zanna, Don't! (subtitled "A Musical Fairy Tale") is a musical written by Tim Acito and with additional lyrics and material by Alexander Dinelaris. It has played in regional theatres, Off-Broadway and off west end. The story is set in a parallel universe where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is a taboo. Set in mid-west America, "Zanna" takes place at heterophobic Heartsville High. Zanna is the school's matchmaker, bringing together happy couples until the football team's quarterback and the captain of the Girls' Intramural Mechanical Bull-Riding Team begin to discover their feelings for each other.
Zanna, Don't! had a developmental run Off-Broadway at the Rodney Kirk Theatre from October 17, 2002, to November 3, 2002. It had a second off-Broadway run beginning on March 20, 2003 at the John Houseman Theater. The run closed after three months, playing 17 previews and 119 performances. Devanand Janki directed and choreographed, with a cast that featured Jai Rodriguez as the "Magical Matchmaker" Zanna in the 2003 production. It was produced off-Broadway by Jack M. Dalgleish in association with Stephanie A. Joel. A Broadway production was planned for 2005, but was cancelled. The title of the musical would have been changed from Zanna, Don't! to simply Zanna!. After workshops with Avenue Q star John Tartaglia, revamping of the script and score, the run was postponed. The title of the show was originally inspired by the film Xanadu, because Acito originally envisioned the lead character on roller skates, and Acito wanted to pay homage to the film. But, the roller-skating idea was soon dropped. Nevertheless, "Zanna, Don't is a loving tribute to pop culture, and I thought a reference to Xanadu would be appropriate. It sort of represents the best and – many would argue – the worst of pop culture."
Zanna, Don't! has been performed numerous times throughout the United States, for example at Bailiwick Repertory, Chicago, Illinois in 2007, Contemporary Classics in Seattle, Washington in summer 2008, the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco, California in fall 2008, Atlanta, Georgia, in May 2009, and Rochester, NY as an official event in the Gay Pride celebration in July, 2009. It debuted in Europe on August 1, 2008 at George Square Theatre, Edinburgh, by students of the RSAMD, where it ran until 24 August.
Zanna, Don't! premiered in London in May 2009, starring Mike Shearer as Zanna. Presented by Wild Oats Productions as part of the Enterprise 09 Festival, the musical was directed by Joseph C. Walsh and choreographed by Philip Scutt. It played a limited sell out season at The Space. The production later transferred to the Upstairs at the Gatehouse in June 2009, where it received rave reviews. The Zanna, Don't! cast could also be seen at West End Live! Leicester Square and "Best of The West End" Leicester Square Theatre.
In the west coast premiere at Contemporary Classics in Seattle (June 2008), the cast included Don Darryl Rivera (Broadway's Aladdin as Tank, Diana Huey as Roberta, and Casey Craig as Zanna. The Seattle Times recognized the production as one of the top musicals of 2008. Contemporary Classics revived the production in 2009 and 2010, with some new cast members each year.
In November of 2008, New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco opened a production which ran to February 2009, Mike was played by Timitio Artusio, Steve was played by Stephen Foreman, Kate by Katrina McGraw, Roberta by Cindy Im, Candi by Miquela Sierra, Buck by Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Tank by Brian J. Patterson and a spirited Price Troche Jr. played the leading role of Zanna. The NCTC cast won awards for best ensemble, best choreography and best musical direction from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (BATCC.)
A new Los Angeles production of Zanna, Don't! premiered January 6, 2012, and runs until February 25, 2012 at Theatre/Theater (5041 West Pico Boulevard Los Angeles, CA). This production was produced by The Spotlight Theatre from Bakersfield, California. Directed by Alex Neal, and the cast featured Kenny Maclin as Zanna, Nick Ono as Steve, Tessa Ogles as Kate, Zachary Gonzalez as Mike, Catt Fox as Roberta, Alex Bennett as Tank, Hannah DiMolfetto as Candi, Alex Neal as Arvin, and Hannah DiMolfetto as Loretta. The production was sponsored in part by The Kern County Board of Trade. Assistant Director for this production is Steven Littles II, choreography by Marvin Ramey, vocal direction by Sarah Smith, and technical design by Jarred Clowes.
In April 2013, Speakeasy Theatre Ltd. produced the New Zealand premiere of Zanna, Don't! at Gryphon Theatre in Wellington. Directed by Stuart James and Musically Directed by Hayden Taylor, the cast included Jared Pallesen as Zanna, Jesse Finn as Steve, Stuart James as Mike, Janelle Pollock as Roberta, Katie Evans as Kate, Joshua Hopton-Stewart as Tank, LeRoi Kippen as Buck and Hannah Bain as Candi. True to the original Off-Broadway production, Speakeasy Theatre Ltd's Zanna, Don't! had only eight actors playing a myriad of characters and roles.
In 2014, See 'Em On Stage: A Production Company produced the New Orleans and Southern region premiere of Zanna, Don't! at the Old Marquer Theatre. Directed by Christopher Bentivegna, the show received seven New Orleans Big Easy Theatre Awards nominations, winning the award for best actor.
In 2018, Island City Stage in Wilton Manors, Florida opened Zanna, Don't! directed by Andy Rogow. The cast featured Conor Walton as Zanna, Darcy Hernandez-Gil as Roberta, Mallory Newbrough as Kate, Eric O'Keefe as Mike, Arrow ZurSchmiede as Steve, Sahid Pabon as Tank, Randall Swinton as Arvin, and Casey Sacco as Candi. Musically directed by Michael Ursua, the show ran for two months beginning in January 2018 to sold out audiences.
The musical is set in Heartsville, U.S.A, once upon a time. The exact time period is not specified, but the play takes place across a school year, beginning on the first day and ending at prom. This is an alternate, fairy tale America, where the majority of the world is homosexual, with heterosexuals subject to heterophobia. Despite the fairy tale aspect, the world is essentially equivalent to ours, with references to Star Trek, the internet, Wayne Gretzky, and many other recognizable people, things or ideas. The majority of the play is set at Heartsville High, where the main characters are students.
As the school year begins, DJ and student Tank reminds the world that Zanna is on the look-out for any extra love that needs to be shared ("Who's Got Extra Love?"). Zanna finds new kid Steve Bookman (a quarterback) lonely. Zanna sets him up with Mike Singer, a chess champion and idol of school. (In the musical's world, chess players are sex symbols, and football players nobodies.) Their love blooms quickly ("I Think We Got Love").
Meanwhile, Kate Aspero, all-around overachiever, finds love with Roberta, a part-time waitress. Kate had long resisted Zanna's efforts to find love for her, citing "SATs, ACTs, APs, and GPAs" as being more worthy of her time, while Roberta seemed destined to a life of cheating girlfriends. She laments this in "I Ain't Got Time," much to the chagrin of the diner's customers. Spurred by Zanna's magic, Roberta impresses Kate so strongly ("Ride 'Em") that they become a couple.
Zanna, pleased with his success, settles down for the night, singing "Zanna's Song" as he says goodnight to his magic wand and goodbye to his feathered friend Cindy, who migrates to Fort Lauderdale.
The next day, the kids decide to create a musical addressing the controversy over heterosexuals in the military. Their play includes the song "Be A Man," touting the impressive homosexual leaders of history (including Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander the Great, and the ancient Spartans), and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," an overly dramatic ballad about a heterosexual couple forced to hide their love from the Army.
In a reprise of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Kate and Steve realize they have feelings for each other, a fact they try quickly to forget, as their town is extremely heterophobic.
Some amount of time passes. At the "I'm Okay, You're Okay Corral," Mike proposes moving in with Steve after graduation, but Steve, trying to avoid the issue, believes they should slow down. Three Corral regulars, Tex, Bronco, and Loretta, insist that love should go "Fast." Steve, scared and confused runs from Mike, who describes Steve's unpredictable behavior in "I Could Write Books." Later, and much to the amusement of Tex, Bronco, and Loretta, it is also revealed that Zanna has feelings for Steve.
Kate and Steve's perplexing behavior leads Mike and Roberta to playfully suggest to each other "Don't You Wish We Could Be In Love?", but the light-hearted song turns serious as Kate, Steve, and Zanna all join in, reflecting on their relationships.
The focus shifts to the State Chess Finals. Steve promises to exchange varsity rings with Mike after the match, while Kate puts all her effort into being a perfect girlfriend to Roberta. Mike's hesitation in the final match causes Roberta to lead a raucous cheer that becomes the song "Whatcha Got?"—a successful cheer indeed, causing Mike to win the tournament.
But in the resulting celebration, Kate and Steve kiss, throwing the town into chaos. Mike, Steve, Kate, and Roberta are devastated ("Do You Know What It's Like?"). Kate and Steve run into classmates Candi and Buck, who have suddenly distanced themselves from the heterosexual couple. Unable to handle living in a heterophobic environment, Kate and Steve plan to run away from Heartsville. Zanna, desperate to make the world safe for them, finds a spell that, while likely to cost him his powers (and a possible deterioration of taste and style), will make everything better, or so he hopes. Deciding that nothing done for love can ever hurt, Zanna performs the spell ("'Tis a Far, Far Better Thing I Do/Blow Winds").
Zanna's spell is a success, in a way. Kate and Steve are King and Queen of the Prom, and everyone there is singing "Straight To Heaven." But Zanna finds that everyone is now heterosexual, and that no one can remember what life was like before the spell, to the point that Zanna himself is ostracized. He reflects on his life, hoping that "Someday You Might Love Me." The students, overhearing this song, realize that they were mistaken in abandoning their friend, singing a reprise of "Straight to Heaven" with "straight" replaced with "right." Prom is a success, and Zanna is invited to a post-prom party, but he chooses to stay behind and think for a while. On his way home, he drops a shoe, and true to fairy tales, Tank rushes to return it to him, revealing not just his memories of before the spell but his love of Zanna, begging "Sometime, Do You Think We Could Fall In Love?"
The happy couple is joined by the ensemble for a reprise of "Sometime, Do You Think..." at the curtain call.
In parentheses are the actors who portrayed the role in the original Off-Broadway cast. Unless otherwise noted, each character is a student at Heartsville High.
- Zanna (Jai Rodriguez, New York - Mike Shearer, London - Kenny Maclin, New LA CAST, Jared Pallesen New Zealand Cast) - The magical matchmaker himself, Zanna has devoted his life to creating couples, while ignoring his own lovelife. His best friends are a bird (Cindy) and his magic wand.
- Tank (Robb Sapp, New York - Nadeem Crowe, London - Alex Bennett, New LA CAST, Joshua Hopton-Stewart New Zealand Cast) - A kind and caring DJ, who describes himself as "a sort of charming, somewhat handsome, not so princely guy," who cares for Zanna deeply but goes unnoticed for most of the show.
- Kate (Shelley Thomas, New York - Kate Malyon, London - Tessa Ogles, New LA CAST, Katie Evans New Zealand Cast) - A notorious overachiever with plans for a medical degree, she mistakes her own heterosexuality for ambition but tries with Roberta anyway. She is the captain of the Girls' Intramural Mechanical Bull-Riding Team.
- Roberta (Anika Larsen, New York - Bonnie Hurst, London - Catt Fox, New LA CAST, Janelle Pollock New Zealand Cast) - A waitress at a diner in her spare time, she has found no luck in love- each new girlfriend seems to "dump her the next day." Her best friend is Mike.
- Steve (Jared Zeus, New York - Michael Cotton, London - Nick Ono, New LA CAST, Jesse Finn New Zealand Cast) - New to Heartsville, Steve's two dads are five-star generals. As a result, Steve has spent much of his life moving around and never making deep connections, but Zanna is sure he'll find a place in Heartsville. He's the quarterback of the football team.
- Mike (Enrico Rodriguez, New York - Michael Stacey, London - Zachary Gonzalez, New LA CAST, Stuart James New Zealand Cast) - A champion chess player and school sex symbol, Mike is a modest and caring teen, and best friends with Roberta.
- Candi (Amanda Ryan Paige, New York - Lyndsey Orr, London - Hannah DiMolfetto, New LA CAST, Hannah Bain New Zealand Cast) - A domineering girl, she is involved in the Drama Club and knows all the latest gossip.
- Buck (Arvin in London production) (Darius Nichols, New York - Will Cassidy, London - Alex Neal, New LA CAST, LeRoi Kippen New Zealand Cast) - Candi's friend, his opinions are overshadowed by her own ideas.
- Bronco, Tex, and Loretta - Played by the same actors as Buck, Tank, and Candi (respectively), these local adults sing the song "Fast," describing why falling in love fast is the best way to do it. New LA Cast chose to split the role of Candi and Loretta between two actresses.
- Loretta - Hannah DiMolfetto, New LA CAST
In addition, the ensemble plays various townspeople and the Girls' Intramural Mechanical Bull-Riding Team.
Track Listing from PS Classics: 
- Who's Got Extra Love?
- I Think We Got Love
- I Ain't Got Time
- Ride 'Em
- Zanna's Song
- Be a Man
- Don't Ask, Don't Tell
- I Could Write Books
- Don't You Wish We Could Be In Love?
- Whatcha Got?
- Do You Know What It's Like?
- 'Tis a Far, Far Better Thing I Do
- Blow Winds
- Straight To Heaven
- Someday You Might Love Me
- Straight to Heaven (Reprise)
- Sometime, Do You Think We Could Fall in Love?
The recording, released by P.S. Classics, is available online, on iTunes, and in stores.
- Reviews of the New Zealand production
Steve Gray wrote: "The show has male characters to kill for... Stuart James brings a tender sweet quality to Mike... Vocally outstanding and a strong presence on stage, he brings a strong comedic sense to the show as well. Jared Pallesen... has a really strong voice and makes the character (Zanna) a fun, yet also heart felt creation. All in all, the show itself is easily one of the strongest in the ‘gay musical’ cannon, and this is a fine production that will appeal to people of all ages. Good, gay fun with many laughs and a great score well sung. Congrats to all involved."
"This show deserves to be sold out so get your tickets quick."- Wellington Reviews
"The singing and dancing were impressivley professional, well supported by an unobtrusive band"- Ewen Coleman, The Dominion Post
- Reviews of the UK productions
This show has a genuine spring in its step. It is lighthearted, tuneful and thoroughly good fun, delivered by a young, zesty cast of 12, who dance and sing for all they are worth. From whatsonstage.com
The British Theatre Guide wrote that "The whole cast give all they’ve got...I defy you not to like it." Mike Shearer is "sparkling".
gaydarnation.com wrote that "Zanna, Don't! is just the ticket to make the world seem fabulous again." Mike Shearer gives a "skilful performance" of "Zanna that is both campy narrator and emotional centre of the show. It doesn’t hurt that he has a fantastic voice as well. The other standout performance comes out of the ensemble. William J Cassidy as Arvin...gives a brilliant performance." 
- Reviews of Off-Broadway
The New York Times wrote "Happily oblivious to everything else happening in the world, a chirpy new Off Broadway musical, Zanna, Don't! arrived at the John Houseman Theater last night with a pop score that aims to be nothing but catchy and a message that says nothing but that people should love each other. And gee whiz, wouldn't you know it? Something about its pure, sugary hopefulness satisfies a sweet tooth that many of us may have forgotten we have."
The Curtain-Up review of the Off-Broadway production in 2003 noted that "the winning score has both variety and a contemporary feel, perhaps permitting it to find a cross-generational appeal." 
Awards and nominations
- Drama Desk nominations
- Best Musical
- Best Music
- Best Book
- Best Lyrics
- Lucille Lortel nominations
- Outstanding Musical
- Outstanding Choreography, Devanand Janki (winner)
- Outstanding Featured Actress, Anika Larsen
- Outer Critics Circle Award nomination
- Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical
Zanna, Don't! was also awarded 2003 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theater Production and voted Favorite Off-Broadway Musical in the Broadway.com Audience Awards.
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- Olson, John."'Zanna, Don't!'Bailiwick Repertory". Talkinbroadway.com, October 9, 2007
- Hartl, John. "The wheels are off, but musical Zanna, Don't still makes do" Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. The Seattle Times, 2008
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- Harris, Manning."Theatre review" atlantaintown.blogspot.com, May 29, 2009
- Shenton, Mark.Zanna, Don't! to Make London Premiere" Archived June 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com, April 17, 2009
- "About 'Zanna, Don't!'"[permanent dead link] off-west-end.com, retrieved April 14, 2010
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- "'Zanna, Don't' listing psclassics.com, retrieved April 14, 2010
- no author."Zanna, Don't!"Time Out London, retrieved April 14, 2010
- Loxton, Howard."Zanna, Don't!" The British Theatre Guide, 2009, retrieved April 14, 2010
- Chasemore, Dan.Zanna, Don’t!" gaydarnation.com, June 15, 2009
- Weber, Bruce."Bubble gum rock? Now? Well, why not?"The New York Times, March 21, 2003
- Bradley, Brad."A CurtainUp Review: 'Zanna, Don't!'" curtainup.com, March 16, 2003