Don’t go expecting Anthony Quinn in Zorba, the current New Line Theatre show. This is the Kander and Ebb musical version, which opened four years after the film Zorba the Greek, in 1968. (Quinn, who did the movie, did, however, star in the 1983 Broadway revival.) It’s a good show for the intimate confines of the Marcelle Theater, full of story-telling and vivid characters.
Alexis Zorba, the title character, here is zesty and full of, but not bigger than, life. Kent Coffel’s Zorba is a charmer, and probably a con man, but he doesn’t steam-roll people – well, he doesn’t steam-roll men. He’s probably closer to it with women, but this was a different time and a different society, and his charm is, to put it politely, not unwelcome. Coffel has most of the really funny lines and a fine voice, carrying the character effortlessly.
The fading femme fatale who’s the delighted object of his attention, Madame Hortense, Margeau Steineau, has style and history, running a small hotel on Crete, where this takes place. Steinau does a particularly good job with the body language of the aging siren, a pretty happy woman already but one who’s glad to see another gentleman caller.
Dominic Dowdy-Windsor is Nikos, the very reserved young academic who arrives only to be selected by Zorba for friendship. He ends up with a young widow, Ann Hier. There’s well-played hesitancy on both their parts. There’s another character, identified in the script only as Leader. Lindsey Jones pretty much tears it up with her work in the role, her voice, as someone behind me remarked, a little like Kate Smith – but, I’d add, with a little Ethel Merman thrown in.
This is not among the most unforgettable music from Kander and Ebb, but the band did well, especially when the balance between instruments and voices got straightened out. I was delighted they actually had a bouzouki in use, making the urge to jump up and dance even harder. New Line always seems to cast first on the basis of musical talent and other considerations after that, and here’s another place where it’s rewarded, the chorus sounding really great. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have carried this off well, and Rob Lippert’s set and lighting work well.
Certainly by today’s standards, it’s very sexist. That’s because we’ve been lucky enough to see changes in that sort of things in most of our lifetimes. Despite the funny lines, this is ultimately a serious, thoughtful show and it’s given a good showcase here.
through March 25, 2017
New Line Theatre
3310 Samuel Shepherd Drive