The committed cast is headed by Enrique Acevedo, who perfectly evokes the gentle strength, compassion, and determination that made Zapata loved in his own time and still today. The musical also focuses on the revolutionary's rocky courtship and marriage to his beloved Josefa (Maria Eberline) and his complicated relationship with his fiery brother Eufemio (Andrew Call), who is more violent and power-hungry than Zapata. Zapata's mother-in-law, Senora Espejo, also plays a vital role as an anchor in the family and community, and is made memorable by Natalie Toro's strong turn.
The show aspires to be a "spectacle," and, by NYMF standards, largely succeeds, with its stylized battle scenes, romantic Mariachi music, power ballads, elaborate traditional dances, wedding celebrations, and a very moving procession of the dead (the choreography and musical staging are by Luis Salgado). A particularly effective choice is the use of a dancer who acts as a kind of dark specter evoking the native spirit during emotionally-charged scenes.
An Occupy Wall Street framing device comes off as rather weak and stilted at the show's beginning, but works far better at the conclusion of Zapata! The Musical, driving home the connection between Zapata's fight for his land then and people's fight for the causes that matter to them today.
-- Brooke Pierce