With its colorful costumes, bold music and theme of Mexican-Americans’ struggle for equality, Zoot Suit is an ambitious final production for Sac State director Manuel Pickett, who is retiring after running the university’s Chicano Theater program for more than 30 years.
The show opened Friday night and will continue through April 21 at the campus’ University Theatre.
Not quite a musical, but more of a play with music, Zoot Suit is a fictionalized account of the true story of a group of young Mexican-Americans wrongfully charged with murder in 1942 Los Angeles. The resulting Sleepy Lagoon murder trial led to the famous Zoot Suit Riots.
Heavily political though the story may be, the audience at Saturday’s show was whooping it up over the vibrant costumes and lively dance numbers. The large cast seemed to have fun sporting the stylish, high-waisted, wide-legged suits and other period clothing, and the swing dance numbers were performed with natural joy.
Jose Perales, a Sac State junior, plays lead character Henry (Hank) Reyna with conviction and believability. Other strong performances are turned in by Kristen Sanchez, who plays his girlfriend Della, and Loretta Redoble-Arroyo as Henry’s mom. Martin J. Rodriguez is charming in the role of El Pachuco, who acts mostly as narrator and occasionally sings.
The cast is bound to be especially keyed up on April 19, when Luis Valdez, the writer of Zoot Suit, will be in the audience. Earlier in the day, at 11 a.m., he’s scheduled to give a free lecture in the University Theatre.
Zoot Suit continues at Sacramento State’s University Theatre, 6000 J St. in Sacramento, through April 21. Tickets are $7–$15. For information, visit csus.edu/dram. For tickets, call (916) 278-4323 or visit tickets.com.