The arrival of Spring means that we are closer to more shows opening in London. One such production is a newly reimagined Zorro the Musical at Charing Cross Theatre, with previews from April 2 and an April 12 opening. You’ll have until May 28 to see the musical, which features lively music by the Gipsy Kings and John Cameron and with lyrics by Stephen Clark. The popular tale focuses on a masked swordsman (Benjamin Purkiss) who emerges as a pueblo’s hero during a quest for justice and freedom in 19th-century California.
Alex Gibson-Giorgio plays villain Ramon in this swordfighting adventure. Some of his previous theatre credits are Rags (Park Theatre), Everything’s Coming Up Sondheim (Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne), Aladdin (Capitol Theatre, Sydney), and Anything Goes (Opera Australia). Gibson-Giorgio called me during a rehearsal break to chat about his career and how he’s preparing to make this musical entertaining and fun for audiences.
Working with Directors 101
What’s an important lesson from your training?
My teacher at university, Margot Fenley, did a class to teach actors how to work with different directors. She didn’t tell us [ahead]. For this particular class, she came in late and flustered, carrying a bunch of books. She sat down and called for someone to get up. A couple of actors went up to the floor and did their scene. When they finished, she went crazy on one actor, who was shocked.
How did you react?
We were all bewildered that she wasn’t herself. Then our teacher broke character and said, “Welcome to Working with Directors 101.”
She [continued] to act as different types of directors. That lesson has stayed with me forever. So much of the rehearsal process is about knowing how to work cohesively with different people and their personalities. As a group, you have to get the best show that you can.
On What Makes an Interesting Villain
Moving on to Zorro the Musical, tell us about your character, Ramon.
Zorro is the story of the swashbuckling hero who comes in and saves the people. The characters can be played very generically. Or, as we’re trying to do [here], we can look at them with a deeper and more human understanding.
Ramon is a son who should be the heir to the throne. His father takes that away and gives it to his younger brother, Diego. From there, the seeds of disappointment and frustration with the world are planted. I explore what happens after that.
Before this, you played another excellent baddie, Jafar in Aladdin.
We all know who the baddies are and how they’re played. We can hear Jonathan Freeman’s voice for Jafar. It’s a wonderful thing trying to mine through the script and find bits of truth. There’s always a reason for a character’s actions and choices. Seeing how naturalistic and real it can be is always important to me.
Remounting a Musical Stalled by COVID
How have rehearsals been going?
We’ve been moving through fairly quickly. It’s been an interesting process as the second iteration of the show. We mounted it for two previews just before COVID and the world closed down. We are back at it again with a slightly new cast. Our camaraderie beforehand has broadened and with the new energy, it’s been really crackling.
It’s been great with Christian [Durham] as director. He’s really understanding of everyone’s ideas. He tries them out on the floor with us: Cressida [Carré], our choreographer; Nick [Barstow], our musical director; and Renny [Krupinski], our fight choreographer.
Are you getting a lot of exercise with the fight choreography?
Yes. Make-believe fights are something that I grew up doing as a kid. [laughs] Having a sword is amazing. It’s a dream come true.
In Australia, the tradition of swordfighting on stage in your Elizabethan and Shakespearean plays is not the same as it is in England. I feel like a lot of actors in drama schools have some stage combat training, but that didn’t happen in the course I did back home. I guess maybe you don’t need it as much there.
Renny is amazing. The cast get moments where they can all sword-fight as well throughout the play. It really is a dance. The penultimate and last fights at the end are really difficult, but they are a real lark and will be exciting for audiences.
Do you feel like you’re in the classic Hollywood films with your sword fights?
Absolutely! I watched a clip of Gene Kelly in The Three Musketeers.
What else would you like to share with Zorro fans?
Most people know the Zorro story and the Gipsy Kings music. This is a beautiful story with extraordinary music. We have a lot of heart in this show. I think these will be really exciting nights for theatre.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Charing Cross Theatre website.