Six years ago, North High School’s production of Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit electrified North Denver and, eventually, the whole city. As the first high-school production ever staged at the Buell Theater, Zoot Suit was lauded for its dramatic quality and for framing North High in a positive light. Its young cast, powerfully radiant in vintage suits and dresses, was a testament to the power of art and education to build community.

Now, director (and former North High faculty member) Jose Mercado has corralled eight of the original cast members for a revival of Zoot Suit, which opens tonight at the historic Elitch Theater. Current students from North and the University of Colorado at Denver, where Mercado now teaches, fill other roles. This production, like the first one, is a community effort, with costumes by designer Mona Lucero and a band directed by DeVotchKa’s Shawn King. And, as before, the play combines swing and style with a potent message about the corrosive power of racism. “Zoot Suit is the right play at the right time,” Mercado says. “The dialogue resonates and is more poignant today. Self-hatred, immigration, identity: Some heavy topics are explored in the show.”

The theater is at 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street. Performances are tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $25 in advance at www.ticketswest.com or $40 at the door ($10 for students with ID). Zoot Suit is the first offering from the Historic Elitch Theatre Foundation, which hopes to restore the venue’s glory as one of Denver’s first educational and cultural hubs. Proceeds from a pre-opening-night dinner (call 303-623-0216), with food from some of North Denver’s favorite restaurants, aid that effort.

July 22-23, 7:30 p.m., 2010

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond