You'd have to be dead not to get at least some enjoyment out of the University of Pittsburgh Rep's production of Zanna, Don't! This excessively perky off-Broadway musical from 2002, with music by Tim Acito and lyrics and book by Acito and Alexander Dinelaris, starts at the far end of relentless optimism, kicks it up a few notches to explosive joy, and finishes somewhere past delirious cheer. I think I might have seen the cast take a breath about halfway through, but I wouldn't bet on it.
We're in Heartsville, U.S.A., at Heartsville High School, and it's just like any other cartoony, Crayola-colored spoof of middle America ... except it's gay. And I mean waaaay gay. Zanna, Don't! takes place in a homo-normative world in which everybody's LGBT and people have heard about straights but never really met any.
This year the drama club decides to be relevant and stage a musical about allowing heteros into the army. Shocking enough. But when the man and woman playing the leads suddenly realize they're in love, the town is up in arms.
If it sounds even remotely polemical, I'm not telling it right. Except for a brief coda, Zanna, Don't! has only one thing on its mind ... to entertain the shit out of you. It's a bubblegum score and a genuinely funny script, and I'm delighted to recommend this over-the-top production.
Director Robert C.T. Steele must have led rehearsals at gunpoint. The collective energy of this student cast is off the charts, and while maybe not everyone has Broadway pipes, every last single one of them plays the humor like a seasoned pro. Mami Tomotani has created genuinely funny choreography, and vocal director Stacey Cabaj — along with musical director Harry Jemson and his band — provide excellent support to this cast.
I want to mention all of them by name: Rocky Paterra, Aric Berning, Liz Dooley, Ethan Miller, Jay Garcia, Jenna Simmons, Tim Kaniecki, Ellen Connally and Harry Hawkins. And it's taking nothing away from any of them to single out the hysterical performance of Laci Mosley, whose way with a joke is nothing sort of astounding.