Zombie Prom – Brain Drain
A REVIEW BY ACHILLES FEELS
First of all congratulations to Fuzz Roark and Spotlighters for making it to fifty-four moutherfucking seasons! That is an incredible accomplishment. I can only wish, though, that their big five four made a little more coherent sense. The season embraces a thematic arc described as: “…filled with powerful women, divas, great artists, rednecks, and zombies.” Uh, okay. Sounds more like a season of American Horror Story than a small theater’s annual offerings, but I guess I’ll just have to live. Zombie Prom, the second show of this somewhat jumbled year, is not something I would normally find myself attending based (admittedly) solely on the title. I think the Oracle has been sitting up in her black tower and cackling at the thought of sending me to a show with such a theme [Yes. – TBO]. Dear God, do I hate zombies.
The show, unfortunately, is an exercise in pointless. It’s practically an exact duplicate of Grease except for the male lead’s zombiefication in Act I (oops, SPOILERZ). And that’s it, absolutely substance free. To be fair, Roark, in his (notoriously lengthy) curtain speech does not front. He warns us not to “look for substance or deep thought in this production, you won’t find it.” And girl, that is the #TRUTH. Prom is a bunch of teeny-boppers waxing poetic on high school life of the late 1950s with the exception of featuring that zombie for two-thirds of the two hour run time. Good girl meets bad boy, good girl and bad boy can’t be together, bad boy commits suicide by jumping into a nuclear reactor because of Caulfieldesque woe, bad boy turns into a zombie and life goes on. This strange love affair leads to…wait for it…a family for the orphaned zombie. Ain’t that cute? As entirely predictable as the book is, credit where due: it was kind of fun to sit and zombie out without having to worry about gaining any unwanted IQ points.
Book, you say? Why, yes! Zombie Prom is a musical, so I was counting on everybody being able to hold their own in the vocal department. And, indeed, Act I was sung quite well, with the leads in particular sounding terrific. Johnny Warner (Alexander Cecchetti),head zombie, was played with a good amount of sass and energy. The only issue is that he looks, well. Kinda old. It’s a little creepy, and not in the intended way, to see him flirt with his other half, Toffee (Allison Comotto), who looks about seventeen. Kristen Zwobot, playing Ms. Strict, the school principal, belted it right good and hammed the strict (GETIT) authoritarian to a tee. Act II, however, deflated a touch and lost a lot of momentum. Voices started to go a bit flat, pacing suffered and dancing took a plunge like pulling the stopper in a bathtub. Director Kristen Cooley seemed to struggle with the challenge of a large cast on a very small stage. Blocking seemed unmotivated and choreography, while time-period appropriate, was repetitive. The pose-pose-step-ball-change-rotate use of the theater in the round space didn’t really do it for me. I will say, though, that the band, lead by music director Micheal Tan (who was also on keyboard), consisting of Christine MacDonald, Greg Bell and Michael Feathers was absolutely superb. Great balance and mastery of the mood.
Scenic design by Alan Zemla was nice, with a deck treatment that recalled a sort of mini high-school gym floor. Lighting by Fuzz Roark seemed a little phoned in, the normal stuff with purple and green touches here and there. Makeup design for Mr. Zombie by Ryan Krasney was wincingly Halloween creature kit.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Zombie Prom as a concept was not for me, but it wasn’t without lasting impressions and fun moments. The singing, especially in the first act, was great, dancing gave it the old college try, and the cast was having a pretty fine time. Good for Halloween, no?
Running at Spotlighters until November 8th
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