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Cisco Lopez (Diego/Zorro) and Alix Rhode (Inez) appear in Music Theater Works’ Zorro: The Musical, running through Aug. 21 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Credit: Brett Beiner Photography

The regional premiere of Zorro: The Musical, a production of Music Theater Works, has a lot going for it.

First is the plot. The tale of Zorro has captivated audiences for years. Don Diego de la Vega creates the alter ego of Zorro to save his people in the Spanish colony of California from the tyrant Ramon. Diego’s father has sent him away to prepare his son for inheriting leadership of the colony. Instead, while he is gone, the evil Ramon takes control and causes great suffering among the people.

Diego returns, albeit as a non-heroic member of a gypsy caravan, to find his father’s colony in ruins and the people abused. Even worse, Ramon is forcing himself upon Diego’s childhood love, Luisa.

To save his people and Luisa, and to disguise himself from Ramon as he prepares for battle, Diego becomes Zorro, the man behind the mask, who fights the evil Ramon – perhaps, in the process, becoming the first superhero in the tradition of Batman and Superman.

Laura Quiñones (Luisa) in Music Theater Works’ Zorro: The Musical at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Credit: Brett Beiner Photography

It is impossible to resist the appeal of the masked man with his black hat and black cape as he fights evil and injustice.

But the appeal of this production is that it’s a musical built around a tale of adventure. The singing and dancing are the main attractions.

As Luisa, Laura Quiñones’ voice is powerful and her solos are incredible. 

Alix Rhode (Inez) is the leader of the gypsy women and the bravest of everyone. She performs songs with the Ensemble Español, Bambolea and Djobi, Djoba, that pretty much bring the house down. 

Collaboration with the Ensemble Español results in singing in both Spanish and English, and both are exuberant.

And what would a Spanish-themed musical be without flamenco dancing? There’s the clicking of the castanets, the tempo of the guitar and the rhythm of clacking heels. To the credit of this production, it is experienced flamenco dancers doing flamenco, and they are mesmerizing.

The lead men, Cisco Lopez (Diego),  J. Christian Hill (Garcia) and Emmanuel Ramirez (Ramon) all have singing parts that match their roles in the production: Diego the hero, Garcia the endearing but scared conspirator and Ramon the villain.

Some elements of this regional premiere production, however, miss the mark.

It’s a bit too long, especially in the beginning with the introduction to the characters without enough musical accompaniment. The songs and the lyrics have a powerful and thoughtful effect, but it takes a little too long to get to them.

Also, some of the tongue-in-cheek interplay between characters seems inconsistent with the heroic plot and the musical power.

These shortcomings are correctible and, in any case, don’t take away from my enthusiastic recommendation to see the production.

The energy, the set design, the story, the costumes, the music, the dancing, the singing and the performers – they all make Zorro: The Musical an entertaining event.

Zorro: The Musical is at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, Aug. 21. Reach the box office online or by phone at 847-673-6300.

Check www.goldstar.com for half-price tickets.

Lina Bulovaite, Jocelyn Leving, Karla Tennies Koziura plus the flamenco dancers and ensemble are seen in Music Theater Works’ Zorro: The Musical.. Credit: Brett Beiner Photography

Cissy Lacks

Cissy Lacks is a writer, photographer and retired teacher who writes theater reviews for the Evanston RoundTable. Bio information is at cissylacks.com. She can be reached at cissy@evanstonroundtable.com.

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