VIVA El Zorro! If you have yet to exclaim these words whilst attempting to flamenco your way through Leicester Square, then clearly you've not spent an evening in the company of one of the coolest, hottest characters in West-end theatre; the other 'man behind the mask'Zorro!
The swashbuckling hero is the alter-ego of Diego de la Vega, a nobleman's son skilled with a sword, who dons a black cape and mask to fight injustice in 19th Century California.
In Christopher Renshaw's extremely enjoyable multi-million pound musical extravaganza, the spirited music of The Gipsy Kings is the soul of the story (including the famous hits Bamboleo and Djobi Djoba, and specially written new songs) entwined with dazzling dance, exciting stunts, amazing magical illusions designed by Scott Penrose and Paul Kieve (of Harry Potter fame) and spectacular sword-fighting. Based on the 2005 bestseller by novelist Isabel Allende rather than the 1998 film with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, this adventure sees Diego raised with two childhood companions Ramon and Luisa.
Sent away to study in Spain, Diego rebels and joins a band of gypsies led by the strikingly seductive Inez.
However, Diego is forced to return when he learns of his father's murder, and that the people are suffering under the tyrannical rule of Captain Ramon.
In the last two years Matt Rawle, an experienced and vocally strong actor and singer, has triumphed in two high-profile roles portrayed on film by Banderas; Che in Evita and now Zorro.
He had already proved himself worthy of leading man status, yet this performance raises the bar - I predict Rawle could well become the Johnny Depp of Theatreland.
Off stage there is a kooky resemblance to the film star; on stage he is extremely talented and appears, like Depp, to have a wondrous versatility which is vitally coupled with being a bit different and daring in a role.
As Diego, with a look and performance reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow (if the Pirates franchise ever goes on stage, Rawle is your star), he makes a quick-witted, savvy, unpredictable rogue, then is charming, smooth and highly skilful as the angry ace swordsman.
Adam Levy is also excellent as the merciless Ramon, putting in a tense solid acting performance and demonstrating impressive control with a sword, while love interest Emma Williams sings beautifully as Luisa and excels when developing the character beyond the initially rather bland 'refined young lady' to a woman with spark and passion.
Lesli Margherita's fiery, flirty 'Gypsy Queen' Inez is an outstanding show-stopper and she attacks every song and step with energy, enjoyment and heart, while Garcia, the downtrodden soldier is more than a comedy relief character in the capable hands of Nick Cavaliere.
The whole ensemble bring their unique voices and talents to the fore to inflame the music and fabulous flamenco - by Spanish choreographer and dancer Rafael Amargo - bringing it to life in a stirring hand-clapping, foot-stomping fiesta which is sure to get you signing up at your nearest dance class.
The Garrick is a small stage so Tom Piper's whitewashed set utilises the full width and height, making the ambitious stunts stand out, and a literally hot and vibrant atmosphere is created with colourful lights, costumes and real fire effects.
Stirring romantic ballads calm the tone between the upbeat rhythms, the story is text-book good vs evil and the dialogue is modern with a charming sarcastic wit (so historical reality is not paramount - this is a fictional superhero after all) and therefore the jokes and humour fall in with the mood of this production, which is to really have a lot of fun.
Take your friends and family, take a night off from the cold and your worries, and get ready to feel the fire as that famous Z will leave its mark.
Performances at the Garrick Theatre, Monday-Saturday 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinées at 3pm. Tickets £25-£60. Group discounts available. Booking until September 12, 2009. wwww.zorrothemusical.com