Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Something Old Turns into Something Fresh at New Line

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Something Old Turns into Something Fresh at New Line

Article excerpt

While John Kander and Fred Ebb's celebrated masterpiece "Cabaret" plays the Fox Theatre, New Line Theatre offers up a gemlike production of one of the team's later, lesser-known musicals, "Zorba."

New Line has previously staged "Cabaret," as well as Kander and Ebb's "Chicago" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" all three with flair and intelligence. But with this zesty new production, New Line asserts a particular advantage that a small, idiosyncratic theater can bring to its community.

It can mount the shows it chooses, shows we don't see anyplace else.

In this case, the gamble really pays off. Although it will never rival Kander and Ebb's big hits, "Zorba" is rich in moody music (performed by the capable New Line band, which for this occasion boasts a bouzouki) and memorable characters. Nearly all of them have something to learn from Zorba, a life-force who lives in an unending present-tense.

Based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis that became a popular movie, "Zorba" tells the story of a repressed, scholarly young Greek-American, Nikos (Dominic Dowdy-Windsor), who has inherited a small mine on Crete. Moving to Greece to reopen it, he runs into Zorba (Kent Coffel).

A jack-of-all-trades who accepts all life brings him, savoring the pleasures and bravely admitting the pain, Zorba sings that whatever you do, it should feel like "The First Time." This philosophy intrigues Nikos so much that he hires Zorba on the spot. The rest of the show explores the duo's adventures in the bedroom, in the taverna and, eventually, in the mine.

The show has problems in pacing, but not because of this vivacious production, co-directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor. Kander, Ebb and the book writer, Joseph Stein, devote the second act to tying up three storylines (two romances and the reopening of the mine).

These come so fast, one on top of another, that none has a chance to ripen emotionally before we're yanked in a different direction. …

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