Zanna Don't! (subtitled "A Musical Fairy Tale") is an Off-Broadway musical, starring Jai Rodriguez as the "Magical Matchmaker" Zanna. After a developmental run at Theater Row in 2002, it opened March 20, 2003 at the John Houseman Theater. Tim Acito wrote the book, music, and lyrics, with additional book and lyrics by Alexander Dinelaris. Devanand Janki directed and choreographed. It was originally produced off-Broadway by Jack M. Dalgleish in association with Stephanie A. Joel. Michael Feingold describes it as "a gay-is-good musical that crusades for heterosexual's right to love each other."
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
The musical is set in Heartsville, U.S.A, once upon a time. The exact time period is not specified, but the play takes place across a school year, beginning on the first day and ending at prom. This is a fairy tale America, where the majority of the world is homosexual, with heterosexuals subject to straight-bashing and heterophobia. Despite the fairy tale aspect, the world is essentially equivalent to ours, with references to Star Trek, the internet, Wayne Gretzky, and many other recognizable people, things or ideas. The majority of the play is set at Heartsville High, where the main characters are students.
As the school year begins, DJ and student Tank reminds the world that Zanna is on the look-out for any extra love that needs to be shared ("Who's Got Extra Love?") Zanna finds new kid Steve Buckman (a quarterback) lonely. Zanna sets him up with Mike Singer, a chess champion and idol of school. (In the musical's world, chess players are sex symbols, and football players nobodies.) Their love blooms quickly ("I Think We Got Love").
Meanwhile, Kate Aspero, all-around overachiever, finds love with Roberta, a part-time waitress. Kate had long resisted Zanna's efforts to find love for her, citing "SATs, ACTs, APs, and GPAs" as being more worthy of her time, while Roberta seemed destined to a life of cheating girlfriends. She laments this in "I Ain't Got Time," much to the chagrin of the diner's customers. Spurred by Zanna's magic, Roberta impresses Kate so strongly ("Ride 'Em") that they become a couple.
Zanna, pleased with his success, settles down for the night, singing "Zanna's Song" as he says goodnight to his magic wand and goodbye to his feathered friend Cindy, who migrates to Fort Lauderdale.
The next day, the kids decides to create a musical addressing the controversy over heterosexuals in the military. Their play includes the song "Be A Man," touting the impressive homosexual leaders of history (including Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander the Great, and the ancient Spartans), and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," an overly dramatic ballad about a heterosexual couple forced to hide their love from the Army.
In a reprise of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Kate and Steve realize they have feelings for each other, a fact they try quickly to forget, as their town is extremely heterophobic.
Some amount of time passes. Mike proposes moving in with Steve after graduation, but Steve, trying to avoid the issue, believes they should slow down. Mike insists, with the support of three locals, the love should go "Fast," but a confused and scared Steve runs from Mike, who describes Steve's unpredictable behavior in "I Could Write Books," a song that also reveals Zanna's love for Steve.
Kate and Steve's perplexing behavior leads Mike and Roberta to playfully suggest to each other "Don't You Wish We Could Be In Love?", but the light-hearted song turns serious as Kate, Steve, and Zanna all join in, reflecting on their relationships.
The focus shifts to the State Chess Finals. Steve promises to exchange varsity rings with Mike after the match, while Kate puts all her effort into being a perfect girlfriend to Roberta. Mike's hesistation in the final match causes Roberta to lead a raucous cheer that becomes the song "Whatcha Got?"- a successful cheer indeed, for Mike wins the tournament.
But in the resulting celebration, Kate and Steve kiss, throwing the town into chaos, and devastating Mike, Steve, Kate, and Roberta ("Do You Know What It's Like?") Kate and Steve plan to run away from home to escape the heterophobia they face in Heartsville, but Zanna, desperate to make the world safe for them, finds a spell that, while likely to cost him his powers (and a possible deterioration of taste and style), will make everything better, or so he hopes. Deciding that nothing done for love can ever hurt us, Zanna performs the spell ("'Tis a Far, Far Better Thing I Do/Blow Winds").
Zanna's spell is a success, in a way. Kate and Steve are King and Queen of the Prom, and everyone there is singing "Straight To Heaven." Zanna finds that everyone is now heterosexual, and that no one can remember what life was like before the spell, to the point that Zanna himself is ostracized and abandoned. He reflects on his life, hoping that "Someday You Might Love Me." The students, overhearing this song, realize that they are mistaken, singing a reprise of "Straight to Heaven" with "straight" replaced with "right." Prom is a success, and Zanna is invited to a post-prom party, but he chooses to stay behind and think for awhile. On his way home, he drops a shoe, and true to fairy tales, Tank rushes to return it to him, revealing not just his memories of before the spell but his love of Zanna, begging "Sometime, Do You Think We Could Fall In Love?"
The happy couple is joined by the ensemble for a reprise of "Sometime, Do You Think..." as the curtain call.
In parentheses are the actors who portrayed the role in the original Off-Broadway cast. Unless otherwise noted, each character is a student at Heartsville High.
In addition, the ensemble plays various townspeople and the Girls' Intramural Mechanical Bull-Riding Team.
The music and lyrics are by Tim Acito.
Soundtrack Listing from PS Classics:
The soundtrack, published by P.S. Classics, is available online, on iTunes, and in stores.
Zanna, Don't! was nominated for and won several theatrical awards.
Lucille Lortel nominations:
Outer Critics Circle Award nomination:
Zanna Don't! was also awarded 2003 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theater Production and voted Favorite Off-Broadway Musical in the Broadway.com Audience Awards.