If Barbra Streisand were an enormous, black drag queen dripping in magenta tafetta, she would have played Zanna instead of Yentl.
In six-inch, silver stilettos, Zanna (Leslie Elliard DRA ’02) dances and sings her way around the Yale Cabaret, fixing up couples and finding love this weekend in “Zanna, Don’t!,” a musical dramedy about life in a world where straight couples are an estranged minority.
Written, composed, directed by and co-starring the multi-talented Tim Acito DRA ’02, the show, like its main man, covers all bases, parodying love, high school, musicals, popular culture and itself. The result is mostly delightful, excessively choreographed, bright, funny and colorful, but is also mortally ambitious, ending in a confusing huff of dangling plotlines and torn fishnets.
The story of Zanna and her love-children begins at the creamsicle-coated, emotionally bereft Jefferson High School, presumably in Anytown, USA. Steve, played by Acito, is a football star who catches his own 40-yard passes, and Mike, played by Nathan Johnson DRA ’03, is the school’s chess champion. Under the magic wand of the cupid Zanna, the two find love and then profess it in song.
Zanna also unites Roberta the waitress (Simone Nelson DRA ’03) and Kate (Robyn Ganeles DRA ’03) the athletic trainer and choreographer of the girls’ intramural mechanical bull-riding team. “Ride ‘Em” is a rowdy dance number that has the female cast literally riding male cast members, who are dressed as metallic bucking broncos and propped up on stools. The show realizes its great ambition to be a full production in such a tiny space, and it harkens back to “Annie Get Your Gun,” but with a cowboy named Coco instead of Bernadette Peters.
“When I see you straddling a mechanical bull, it’s like we have some sort of spiritual connection,” Nelson coos.
The set is gorgeous, including a pull-down sequin American-flag backdrop for the musical number “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that perfectly accompanies Zanna and the cast of the Jefferson High musical about heterosexuals in the military.
“If musical theater doesn’t address pressing social issues, then who will?” they ask. And the audience must agree.
Set and costume designer Wade Laboissonniere DRA ’03 is to be commended for creating a wardrobe for Zanna that would be the envy of RuPaul. Laboissonniere also created a phenomenal standing bed backdrop in which the two couples contemplate the nature of love in “Radio Don’t Play That Song,” one of the show’s weaker thematic moments where the hokey music is meant to be taken too seriously.
This moment is where the plot begins to unravel, as if Acito realized his generally clever and refreshing manifesto on acceptance needed to come to a quick end. Rather than resolution, the audience gets a flashy production number bending the already skewed gender roles and finishing as Zanna ambles offstage with a cryptically abrupt and probably significant limp.
“Zanna Don’t!” is a do. It is a Xanadu for those play-goers interested in catchy music and bright colors. It makes standard points about love and relationships that follow common pop culture rhetoric, but it does so in a largely refreshing and always amusing way.
8:30 and 11 p.m.
$6 students/$9 general