Swashbuckling Zorro is coming to town. The legendary masked hero arrives in the West End this month in the form of a new musical featuring — so the publicity goes — “an incredible new score” from the band who turned their Latin music into a string of chart hits, the Gypsy Kings.
For fans of strutting men in tight trousers and fiery women in flouncy dresses, there is also a lot of flamenco, choreographed by the Spanish dancer Rafael Amargo.
Though not for Adam Levy. For Levy, who plays the role of Zorro’s nemesis Ramon, there is no singing and no dancing. “I do lots of fighting,” he says during a break in rehearsal. “There’s one big fight at the end. It’s the icing on the cake for the show. It’s the showdown between Zorro and my character, Ramon, which turns into the reveal when Zorro is unmasked.”
When the mask comes off, it will reveal the face of Matt Rawle, who plays the lead role. But it is Levy who has been cast to provide Christopher Renshaw’s production with gravitas. “I was employed to bring something little more grounded and a little darker to the story,” he says. “It’s no shame that I’m not singing. People pay me not to sing.”
The 38-year-old actor has string of Shakespearian roles on his CV — Paris in Peter Stein’s Royal Shakespeare production of Troilus and Cressida, the Dauphin in Nick Hytner’s National Theatre production of Henry V, not to mention the female role of Paulina in Ed Hall’s all-male Propeller production of The Winter’s Tale.
His career started when, as a 21-year-old, Alan Ayckbourn cast him as Judd Hirsch’s son in the Jewish comedy Conversations With My Father. But it was in last year’s revival of Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America that Levy made his biggest impression.
He played the central role of the gay, guilt-ridden Jew, Louis, who deserts his Aids-ravaged lover. Levy’s intense performance provided Daniel Kramer’s production with its most moving moment — when the secular Louis dons a kippah and says kaddish over the body of Roy Cohn, the play’s version of the real-life homophobic but gay McCarthyite lawyer.
“My mother was dying at the time, of cancer,” says Levy. “It was a very quick, cruel death. I was talking to her one minute and then next she was in hospital with her lungs filling up with fluid. I went on stage and the first thing Louis is faced with is cancer of the skin, and he can’t deal with anything, he has a phobia of hospitals and blood.
“But the play did very much take me back to my Jewish roots and also moved me forward.” Levy’s father, Abraham, was born in Baghdad, but left the city and Iraqi antisemitic persecution in 1947 when he moved to Israel.
He then settled in the UK with Levy’s Russian-born mother Margaret, and ran a beach café on the Wirral peninsula. “I was brought up in a good Jewish home,” says Levy, “then at something like 13 I became obsessed with acting, until I eventually ended up at Rada.”
Levy lives in East London with his stage-manager wife Catherine — “We met when I was in A Winter’s Tale. Trust me to find the only woman in an all-male company.” They have a daughter, Scarlett, and are expecting their second child later this year.
With Levy contracted for the next six months to play Ramon, there is going to be a lot of baby-sitting needed. It might have been easier if he had landed the role of Heathcliffe in ITV’s production of Wuthering Heights, for which he auditioned last year. He has been trying to “go more in the direction of television and film”.
“I didn’t want to do theatre unless it was the right job. But this is a phenomenal opportunity to be in the West End. And Ramon is such a great character. So ITV’s loss is hopefully the West End’s gain,” he says.