Christopher Renshaw first got involved in the development of the stage musical “Zorro” back in 2001. Next week, he finally gets a chance to bring it to the United States when it premieres at the Alliance Theatre.
Renshaw, who is gay, is directing a new version of the production, which he originally envisioned as being the first flamenco musical. He and author Stephen Clark approached the Gipsy Kings, known for their flamenco-rumba music, to get the first staging up and going.
That was back in 2008, when “Zorro” opened in London and played a year. Since then, it’s toured around the world, save for America.
In all, the re-worked musical has more than 30 songs, half of them new. Over time, Renshaw and the company have worked on music and character development. Adam Jacobs, a veteran performer who has been on Broadway in both “The Lion King” and “Les Miserables,” has joined the cast to play the title role of Diego de la Vega/Zorro here.
Renshaw feels audiences – gay and straight – will appreciate the theatrical nature of the musical and the main character, who he calls “a universal type – crazy and sexy.” He has long been enamored with the character of Zorro.
“I saw a bullfight when I was growing up,” he says. “I remember the sexuality of it, the matador.”
The plan is to workshop the musical here, tinker with it and eventually take it to New York.
The director is perhaps best known for his work with Boy George in “Taboo,” the panned musical that opened on Broadway in late 2003 and closed early the next year. He would love to see that come back to the States in a different version.
Renshaw later directed “The King and I” on Broadway with Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips and was nominated for a Best Director Tony Award. He also produced the Queen musical “We Will Rock You,” which he hopes will eventually make it to the U.S.
Swinging with ‘Mary Poppins’
When the musical “Mary Poppins” returns to the Fox Theatre next week, one of the swing members is openly gay Curtis Schroeger. The show is based, of course, on the 1964 film which won Julie Andrews an Oscar as the nanny who flies in with her umbrella to help a banker’s unhappy family.
The stage version has more songs and theatrical moments, such as Mary flying, but retains the charm and whimsy.
“It’s definitely nostalgic,” Schroeger says. “A certain demographic remembers ‘Mary Poppins.’ I think everyone over the age of 30 has been exposed to the movie and I think (this) motivates them to come and bring their family.”
He thinks gay audiences love a larger than life persona such as Mary Poppins.
“I think we all like leading ladies such as Julie Andrews and Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli,” he says.
“Mary Poppins” opened on Broadway in 2006 and ran through this year. Schroeger auditioned for the original production and did callbacks for a number of years until he landed a spot in the touring version.
“It was a long process; it took a long time but they eventually asked if I wanted to join them,” he says.
As a swing, he says his job is to be ready at a moment’s notice when one of 11 cast members can’t go on. It can be one role one night, another the next. He will be with the show through summer.
“The Drowsy Chaperone”
Through April 14 at Aurora Theatre
This Tony-winning musical follows a lonely, sexually ambiguous musical theater junkie who puts on the cast album of his favorite show and sees it pop to life around him.
“Brer Rabbit & Friends”
April 11 – May 26 at the Center for Puppetry Arts
Openly gay Spencer G. Stephens directs this adaptation of the beloved classic, featuring live music.
“Designing Women Live 7”
April 11 – 14 at Onstage Atlanta
Two new episodes of the TV classic are being staged – “Suzanne Goes Looking for a Friend” and “The Emperor’s New Nose/How Long Has This Been Going On?” – and done as fundraisers for Process Theatre and Onstage Atlanta’s new home.
“The Fabulous Lipitones”
Through April 21 at Theatrical Outfit
Openly gay Glenn Rainey stars in this new musical about a small town barbershop quartet competing for a national championship
Top photo: ‘Zorro’ runs April 3 – May 5 at the Alliance Theatre. It is directed by Christopher Renshaw, who is openly gay. (by Roy Beusker)