Ginger Hibiscus | Zanna Don’t! at the Landor Theatre
London theatre West End News reviews
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09 Jun Zanna Don’t! at the Landor Theatre

With the subtlety of a sledgehammer and more glitter than a Christmas grotto, Zanna Don’t is a flamboyant festival of everything camp, sparkly and fabulous. Currently playing at the Landor Theatre in Clapham, the show transports us into an alternate reality where heterosexuality is taboo, where the Heartsville High pinup is the school chess champion, and where the teenagers are made to fall in love by a musical fairy called Zanna.

Like every self-respecting musical fairy, Zanna channels his love-making magic through his impressive wand (pink and sparkly, no less), casting spells over anyone with, “extra love.” Selflessly scheming, he flits about the place, a benevolent puppeteer who oversees the arrival of Steve Brookstein, the awkward new football quarterback in need of the social boost of leading the high school musical.

Zanna’s magnificent wardrobe, complete with a range of translucent sequinned vests, rainbow onesie, and diamante trainers is more than enough to make David Bowie jealous. Exploding with colour, Andrew Cox’s costumes take the theatrics to another level; not for the faint-hearted, there are short shorts aplenty and enough costume changes to rival Katy Perry.

It’s clear that the production is over-the top, but the show is certainly not all style without any substance (though, there’s a lot of style). But rather, it’s a fascinating exploration of an inherently heterophobic society, holding a mirror up to the world we still live in; even in these exponentially more tolerant times, when most people would be horrified by the accusation of being homophobic, “gay,” and, “homo,” are still used pejoratively, and debates somehow continue to rage about equal marriage rights. With the US “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act only repealed in 2011 (incidentally also the name of Heartville High’s musical), it makes a really relevant point with a gentle touch, using clever, nuanced language to highlight systemic, habitual homophobia where, to me at least, it had previously been invisible.

This light, yet meaningful challenge is what has stayed with me, but leaving Zanna Don’t two things occupied my mind; the ridiculously catchy songs and the ridiculously talented singers. David Ribi glitters even more than his outrageous belt as Zanna, as his gorgeous voice, convincing acting and gloriously camp dancing mark him out as one to watch for the future of musical theatre. Also particularly memorable was the exceptional voice of Jonathan Dudley. In the role of chess champion, Mike, he excels in a series of heartbreaking ballads about his character’s relationship with Steve, and gives us probably the most believable, and touching, performance of the show. Ensemble Thomas Wright also stood out in his ability to absolutely become so many different characters- my favourite being his hysterical depiction of a violently heterophobic cowboy- I’d be completely amazed if he pulls that off with a straight face every night! Equally impressive, was how Tom Scanlon managed to cram so much flamboyant choreography into such an intimate theatre; and how the cast managed to pull it off without injuring anyone in the audience!

The show is by no means perfect (it would have helped to have had all the cast in microphones rather than just Ribi, and a little bit more polish wouldn’t go amiss), but I have absolutely fallen in love with it. In shining a spotlight on the hostility of an intolerant world, Zanna Don’t makes Prozac redundant through the medium of fun, laughter and a lot of glitter.

For more Zanna Don’t information, including tickets, please see: