Performing Arts

'Zorro' fills the stage with romantic, swashbuckling drama and music of the Gipsy Kings

Macia McGeorge plays the cruel Ramon, Lito Becerra his brother Diego masquerading as Zorro, Tommy Paduano the affable Sergeant Garcia in “Zorro the Musical” at Miami Theater Center.
Macia McGeorge plays the cruel Ramon, Lito Becerra his brother Diego masquerading as Zorro, Tommy Paduano the affable Sergeant Garcia in “Zorro the Musical” at Miami Theater Center.

The 12-year-old Sociedad Actoral Hispanoamericana is going big with its English-language production of the 2008 British work “Zorro the Musical.”

Sometimes, it seems that the cast of 37 will barely fit on the stage at Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores, where the show is being performed through April 15.

But director, lighting designer and chief costumer Miguel Sahid somehow pulls it off, filling the performance space with lots of colorful flamenco dancing, robust singing, sword fights, even aerialists soaring on silks. And oh, yes, the company tells the story of that swashbuckling defender of the downtrodden, Zorro.

Zorro, the dashing hero of many a movie and his own late ‘50s TV series, was dreamed up in 1919 by pulp fiction writer Johnston McCulley in the book “The Curse of Capistrano.” Jumping forward nearly a century, lyricist Stephen Clark, book writers Helen Edmundson and Clark, and the composing team of the Gipsy Kings and John Cameron turned Isabel Allende’s fictional 2005 Zorro biography into a musical.

“Zorro the Musical” tells the story of Diego de la Vega (Lito Becerra), aka Zorro, in workmanlike fashion. The best thing about it is the Gipsy Kings’ music — just wait ‘til you hear that huge cast sing “Bamboleo” — and the chance to experience one answer to the question, “What would ‘Zorro’ be like as a musical?”

To summarize the story (which actually takes nearly three hours to tell, given all the big musical numbers and reprises), Don Alejandro de la Vega (Seth Trucks), the alcalde of Los Angeles, has two young sons who don’t get along.

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Star Lito Becerra dances with gypsy women in Sociedad Actoral Hispanoamericana’s production of “Zorro the Musical” at Miami Theater Center. JESUS ARANGUREN

Ramón (Miguelangel Cubillos), the elder boy, is fiercely jealous of his father’s seeming preference for his little brother Diego (Martin Fajardo). The fact that the boys’ pretty playmate Luisa Pulido (Jerirose Kirsten) prefers Diego doesn’t help either.

Don Alejandro sends Diego off to Spain, where he can get the schooling he’ll need to become the next alcalde, while he keeps Ramón in California with plans to have him lead the army once he’s grown. But Don Alejandro’s plans are thwarted in every way.

Rebellious Diego runs away from school and falls in with a band of gypsies. One of them, Inez (Rebeca Diaz), has the hots for the grown-up Diego, so she isn’t at all happy when the adult Luisa (Shalia Sakona) arrives from California to beg him to come home. It seems that Don Alejandro has fallen from his horse and drowned. Ramón has seized power and is now starving and brutalizing the people.

Diego goes home, with Inez following along to keep an eye on him. Soon he dons a black mask, black cape and black sombrero cordobés, taking up the sword and using his athleticism and trickery to get the best of the increasingly enraged Ramón and his men. To keep his cover, he pretends that Diego has become Ramón’s none-too-bright, fawning servant — much to Luisa’s disgust. But oh, she thinks, that Zorro.

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Lito Becerra’s Zorro takes a leap over Tommy Paduano’s Sergeant Garcia in “Zorro the Musical” at Miami Theater Center. ALFREDO ARMAS

The script is like something out of a florid romance novel, with writing so cliched that you may occasionally chuckle when you’re not supposed to be laughing.

But Becerra and company play “Zorro the Musical” with robust sincerity, and though the result has flaws as well as virtues, the audience gets into the experience.

Becerra’s voice tends to wander off key on solos, but when he sings duets with Sakona, the sound is sweet. The actor’s Zorro is wiry, tricky and nimble, and his sword fights with Trucks (who doubles as Ramón’s lieutenant) are the exciting work of fight choreographer Michael Engelmann.

Macia McGeorge is relentlessly manipulative and cruel as the grown Ramón, but his command is powerful as he sings “A Lifetime.” As the plus-sized Sergeant Garcia, Tommy Paduano sings and dances impressively, and he becomes a crowd favorite as he and Diaz’s fiery Inez fall for each other.

Sofia Rodriguez’s sets are bare-bones simple, but Sahid lights them well, and the vibrant colors of the actors’ costumes fill in the blanks. Musical director Michael Day gets a rich vocal sound from the large company, and the sounds of flamenco guitars and Spain are threaded through the instrumental tracks. Arysbells Figueredo’s sound design at times proves problematic, as some microphones cut in and out (Diaz’s Inez was sometimes unintelligible at the Saturday matinee opening weekend).

In part because of the musical itself, the company’s “Zorro the Musical” is not on the level of a production you might see at theaters such as Actors’ Playhouse, Slow Burn Theatre, the Wick Theatre or Maltz Jupiter Theatre, where lavish musicals rule. But the target audience, swept up in the dance, romance and derring-do, seems happily entertained.

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, music and performing arts news.

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Seth Trucks as the alcalde’s lieutenant gets ready to take out Lito Becerra’s Zorro in “Zorro the Musical” at Miami Theater Center. ALFREDO ARMAS

If you go

  • What: ‘Zorro the Musical.’

  • Where: Sociedad Actoral Hispanoamericana production at Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.

  • When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through April 15.

  • Cost: $25-$45.

  • Information: 786-339-4577 or zorro.brownpapertickets.com

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