Young Melbourne talent, Samuel Kitchen plays Zanna in the Off-Broadway musical, Zanna, Don’t! This upbeat high school musical of a different kind aims to promote diversity and is part of the Midsumma Festival, Melbourne’s queer arts and cultural festival, which turns 21 in 2009.

Ahead of the Melbourne debut of the show, Anna Lozynski spoke to Samuel Kitchen.

Samuel Kitchen1. Why is this off-Broadway musical not to be missed?
Zanna Don't! is a truly fun, zany and uplifting comedy which will, dare I say it, make the audience feel a little 'Pink'.  The score is original, bright and is sure to have the audience bopping along in their seats and smiling.

2. You star in the lead role of this production as Zanna, the school matchmaker. What have you found most challenging about this role?
Zanna is one of those all round good guys with a very cheeky, lovable and slightly wacky sense of humour. I do not know whether anybody could live up to the squeaky clean image of this character so it has been an enjoyable challenge getting back in touch with my inner innocence. Our cheeky sides are somewhat similar.
3. Tell us about your favourite scene in the show.
When the high-school students get together to create their own musical they begin with a Village People 'In the army' style song called 'Be A Man', wearing suitably adjusted military attire. It's a big and fun song. I have to control my laughter every night as some of the choreography paired with the facial expressions of fellow cast members really gets me going.
4. What kind of costumes does a character with a name like Zanna wear?
If the first scene is anything to go by, I would have to say Zanna's costumes are 'quite minimalistic', colourful and funky. In fact, the costume design is wonderfully colourful. Let’s just say there is quite a bit of flesh in this production! 
5. This musical addresses some important issues, including tolerance and dealing with diversity. What resonates most with you from the script?
In the second Act, there is a moving ballad, 'Someday you might love me', which is a song inspired by gay intolerance.  Personally, this song hits home for me the most. I like the message it conveys about the difficulties of dealing with homophobia. Stylistically, the song is a contrast to the style and reality of the rest of the musical.

6. Having previously performed in hit musicals such as Grease, Rent and Jesus Christ Superstar, what attracts you to musical theatre?
Life does not often allow us to naturally break out into song (except maybe on public transport with an amazing tune on my iPod).  The stage can be an amazing place to let go and escape into rich characters, emotions and express your passions. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Cast of Zanna, Don't!7. From a professional perspective, what have you learned from being involved in this production?
The direction, choreography and musical composition have been an intense ride for Zanna with many opinions and directing notes to take into account from the many chefs in 'Zanna's Kitchen'.  As a performer, there is sometimes a fine balance to be struck between being flexible to keep so many people happy as well as maintaining the integrity of the initial joy one feels during the first reading of the script. This is a constant learning process.

8. What techniques do you employ to curb any pre-performance nerves?
I often find distraction by humour is the best remedy. A good laugh with fellow cast members back stage can be a great release of tension and nerves. Not only is the cast talented, but includes some of the funniest people with which I have worked.
9. Finally, the show closes on St Valentine's Day. What is the best Valentine you have given or received?
I have experienced some cute Valentine’s Days. This year, very close friends are flying in from Brisbane and Sydney to see the show, so we will be together for a big Valentine’s celebration, including champagne, chocolates, flowers, laughter and more!

Zanna, Don’t! opens tonight and plays until Feb 14 as part of the Midsumma Festival. Further information»

Top right - Samuel Kitchen
Bottom right - the cast of
Zanna, Don't!

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