I discovered the cast recording of Zorba in college and have been in love with it ever since. But I honestly never thought I would ever even see it onstage, much less get to work on it. Every time I mentioned it to my musical theatre friends, at least one person would say, “It’s so depressing!”
Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite of depressing; sure, it’s dark, but it’s genuinely life-affirming.
Now maybe in clumsy directors’ or actors’ hands this story can get bogged down in the darkness and miss all the light. But as written, as conceived, it is not depressing. And our audiences during the first half of our run confirm that every night. The word I hear most after performances is “wonderful.” People are really overwhelmed at the fun and the powerful emotions of this show.
As usual, our reviews have been incredibly positive. Here’s just a taste of what the critics have said…
“Filled with passion and genuine exuberance.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX
“A real revelation… a genuine must see.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld
"Another home run for New Line.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL
“A lived-in marvel of beauty and honesty.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times
“Intriguing and intoxicating… Zorba the musical will lift your spirits with its wisdom and its zest and make you appreciate what you have all the more.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News
Not bad, huh?
Though oddly, a couple reviews have complained that there’s not much plot, that it’s just a series of episodes. But that’s only true if you think Zorba is the protagonist. He’s not. Nikos is the protagonist, the one who learns and grows and changes. Zorba is a Wise Wizard figure, like Obi-Wan Kenobi or Jiminy Cricket.
If you understand that Nikos is our hero, then it’s a very straight, linear path from incident to incident, as Nikos learns something from each episode, each encounter, and slowly accesses more and more of his emotions and his “animal” nature, leading to his eventual enlightenment. He follows a classic hero myth trajectory.
I wish reviewers would learn to admit they don’t understand a show rather than blaming the show for their shortcomings…
It has been a massive privilege to work on this beautiful show, to unlock its complexities and ambiguities, to lead this smart, insightful, talented, fearless cast.
This whole cast is really, really strong, but I have to give a special shout-out to Kent Coffel, who is giving an extraordinary, utterly fearless performance in the title role, and the whole damn show rests on his shoulders, so…
But there’s one thing that delights me more than the rest. The first lyric of the show, “Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die,” is pretty intense, and it always draws a few uncomfortable laughs. What kind of musical is this? (They softened that lyric for the 1980s revival, though lyricist Fred Ebb hated the new version.) But when that same line comes back at the end of the show in the short epilogue, suddenly those words don’t seem harsh or pessimistic anymore; now, with the whole show as backdrop, with Zorba’s unique philosophy underscoring everything, now those words just sound right. I see people nodding at this point every night. Of course that’s what life is, and we should celebrate that! Life is just time, and what we do with that time is up to us.
Talk about freedom!
If you haven’t seen Zorba yet, come join us this weekend or next. I promise you will love it. The adventure continues…
Long Live the Musical!
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre http://newlinetheatre.blogspot.com/2017/03/life-is-what-you-do.html