A few years back, while I was on a critic’s trip to New York City, a musician’s strike shuttered a good chunk of the Broadway theaters. I turned to off-Broadway for a Saturday night show and ended up at something called “Zanna, Don’t!” — mainly because I liked the title. What I found was a delightful fantasy, full of humor, warmth and hope.
The show finally made its area premiere Friday night under the auspices of Minneapolis Musical Theatre, and it’s still a delightful fantasy, full of humor, warmth and hope.
Set in an alternate realty where being gay is the norm and “heteros” are a feared and ridiculed minority, “Zanna, Don’t!” follows a group of teens at Heartsville High who are obsessed with usual teen things — the school musical, the chess team and, of course, falling in love. Helping to facilitate this is Zanna, a particularly fabulous teen with magical powers and a heart of gold.
Complications set in when two of the teens realize that they aren’t so interested in their respective boyfriend and girlfriend but each other, and their relationship eventually rocks their lives — and the town — to the core.
Show creator Tim Acito makes his point without getting heavy-handed. And while his score gets a bit repetitive, there are several highlights along the way, especially in the second half, as the simple love songs fall away to more complex emotions of loss and longing.
The MMT cast tackles this with considerable aplomb, performing to a person with considerable energy and depth. Leading the charge is Bart Ruf as Zanna, who shows great chops as a singer and brings some unexpected depth to the main character (and shows considerable skill by dancing in high high heels twice during the show). The balance of the ensemble does a fine job as well, especially Anna Carol and Alan Wales as Kate and Steve, the youngsters who find that their true love isn’t the norm.
Give credit to MMT for bringing this delightful show to the Twin Cities — but don’t dawdle, it only runs through Father’s Day.
“Zanna, Don’t!” runs through June 21 at the Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Tickets are $25 to $28. For tickets and information, call (612) 339-4944 or visit online.