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Detail from Original Cast RecordingZorba

A Musical in 2 Acts, 17 Scenes. Book by Joseph Stein. Adapted from the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Production consultant, Vassili Lambrinos. Associate choreographer, Tom Rolla. Produced by Harold Prince in association with Ruth Mitchell

Imperial Theatre, New York. Opened 17 November, 1968; Closed 9 August, 1969 (305 perfs)
Revived 1983. Broadway Theatre, New York - Opened 16 October, 1983; Closed 2 September, 1984 (362 perfs)

The Story:

The setting is Crete in 1924. Nikos, a young student, has inherited a mine which he plans to resurrect to its working state. With his new friend, Zorba, he travels from Piraeus and lodges with a French woman, Hortense. It soon becomes apparent that Zorba and Hortense are attracted to each other and there soon becomes a romantic involvement. Zorba tries to get Nikos interested in a young Widow who brings them lunch but Nikos treads wearily. Zorba is very much his own man and a law unto himself. Nikos has given him money with which to buy supplies to enable them to reopen the mine but Zorba goes off and spends it all on a belly dancer. Hortense, meanwhile is romantically dreaming of marriage with Zorba - and a wedding ring! Despite his misgivings Nikos plucks up his courage and goes to visit the Widow. Their meeting is witnessed by a young man, Pavli, who is somewhat mentally unbalanced. resulting from witnessing the assignation of the Widow and Nikos, Pavli throws himself into the sea.

Next morning, village celebrations are stilled when Pavli's body is washed up onto the shore. Zorba returns to the village with no supplies for the mine, no money and no wedding ring for Hortense. Nikos tells the Widow how much she means to him - and the feelings are reciprocated. But their love comes too late. A member of Pavli's family stabs her to death, blaming her for Pavli's suicide. The bad news does not stop here. A survey of the mine shows that it has been closed too long and that it will be impossible to reopen it. Zorba is a philosophical man, but Nikos cannot understand Zorba's attitude to those who killed the Widow. Zorba explains that one must accept death as one accepts life, all there is left to do is dance.

Hortense has become very ill and in her delirium, she imagines she is a young girl again. Zorba rushes to her side but to no avail. Nikos and Zorba, in their mutual grief, begin to dance. Nikos decides to return to Athens - and Zorba to wherever life leads him.


39 parts, 5 principals.

Zorba, engaging actor who sings and dances, carries show
Hortense, actress who sings and dances
Leader, powerful dramatic singer
Nikos, actor who sings and dances
Widow, actress who sings

Separate singing and dancing choruses. Total cast, 28-39.

original cast (in order of appearance )

  • Constable: David Wilder
  • Alexis: Alex Petrides
  • Manolako: James Luisi
  • Panayoti.s: Nat Horne
  • Mimiko: Al De Sio
  • Konstandi: Joseph Alfasa
  • Sofia: Marsha Tamaroff
  • Kyriakos: Jerry Sappir
  • Kanakis: Ali Hafid
  • Konstantinos: Angelo Saridis
  • Marina: Alicia Helen Markarian
  • Fivos: Gerrit De Beer
  • Efterpi: Lee Hooper
  • Loukas: Loukas Skiptaris
  • Meropi: Juliette Durand
  • Aristos: Charles Kalan
  • Georgi: John La Motta
  • Antonis: Anthony Marciona
  • Tasso: Susan Marciona
  • Thanos: Lewis Gundunas
  • Pauli: Richard Dmitri
  • Father Zacharia: Gerard Russak
  • Aliki: Miriam Welch
  • Mavrodani: Paul Michael
  • Chyristo: Louis Garcia
  • Zacharias: Edward Nolfi
  • Belly Dancer: Jemela Omar
  • Old Man: Robert Bernard
  • Katapolis: Richard Nieves
  • Despo: Nina Dova
  • Inini: Connie Burnett
  • Athena: Peggy Cooper
  • Grigoris: Wayne Boyd
  • Vasilis: Martin Meyers

Instrumental Interlude Soloists: Jerry Sappir, Ali Hafid, Angelo Saridis

Musical Numbers

  1. Life Is - Leader, the Company
  2. The First Time - Zorba
  3. The Top of the Hill - Leader, Chorus
  4. No Boom Boom - Hortense, Zorba, Nikos, The Admirals
  5. Vive La Difference - The Admirals, Dancers
  6. The Butterfly - Nikos, Leader, Widow, Chorus
  7. Goodbye, Canavaro - Hortense, Zorba
  8. Belly Dance - Belly Dancer
  9. Grandpapa - Zorba, Leader, Chorus
  10. Only Love - Hortense
  1. The Bend of the Road - Leader, Chorus
  2. Only Love (reprise) - Leader
  3. Bells * - Dancers
  4. Y'assou ** - Nikos, Zorba, Hortense, Leader, Chorus
  5. Why Can't I Speak? *** - Widow, Efterpi
  6. Mine Celebration - Zorba, Company
  7. The Crow - Leader, Women
  8. Happy Birthday - Hortense
  9. I Am Free - Zorba
  10. Life Is (reprise) - Leader, the Company

* Subsequently dropped
** Replaced by: Bouboulina - Zorba, Hortense, Leader, Chorus
** Replaced by: That's a Beginning - Widow, Nikos, Leader


Violin I-II, viola, cello, oboe (Eng. horn), bassoon, flute (pic), Bb clar, bass, trumpet I, II, III (trombone II), trombone I, French horn, bouzouki (or mandolin 1), bouzouki (or mandolin II), guitar, accordion, percussion, elec harpsichord (or piano). (Three ethnic parts included above.)

Scenes and Sets:

2 acts, 19 scenes, basic platform unit set with 4 sets of fly-in units, portable house interior and wall units, 2 partial sets.


Scene 1: Bouzouki Circle.
Scene 2: Cafe Piraeus.
Scene 3: Village Square.
Scene 4: Hortense', Garden.
Scene 4a: Vive la.
Scene 5: Hortense's Bedroom.
Scene 6: The Mine.
Scene 7: "Butterfly" - "Not Too Fast."
Scene 8: Hortense's Garden.
Scene 9: Khania.
Scene 9a: "After Love"
Scene 10: Widow's House.


Scene 1: Village Square.
Scene 2: Hortense's Garden.
Scene 3: Road.
Scene 4: Road.
Scene 5: Village Square.
Scene 6: Mine.
Scene 7: Hortense's Bedroom.
Scene 8: Street.
Scene 9: Bouzouki Circle.

Period and Costumes:

Present and 1924: modern Greek suits, dresses, sweaters, etc. 1924 double-breasted suits, overcoats, peasant and miners clothes, black dresses, boots, fancy dresses for Hortense, admiral hats, safari coat, belly dancer's ensemble, hag hooded robes and masks, poncho, sheep-fur-lined vest.


Bouzouki, modern ballet with Greek folk dance overtones, belly dance.

Lighting and Special Effects:

Dramatic and area lighting required. Mine explosion.


Zorba borders on symbolism and is often difficult for less-sophisticated audiences to follow. A good show for groups that like to avoid formula musicals, however.