Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Luke's Reviews: Zombie Prom

I know this post is coming really late (I saw the show almost a month ago). I lost my program and couldn't finish the post as soon as I would've liked to, but my wonderful sister was kind enough to give me hers, so here is my belated blog post.

Before I talk about the production I actually saw, I'd like to take a moment and discuss the journey that Zombie Prom has taken me on.  I first discovered the show via my Jimmy Award craze.  NHSMTA posted a "best of video"(skip to 3:05) of the Rising Star Awards (New Jersey) and on it was this AMAZING kid singing "Blast From the Past" in what has to be the coolest zombie costume I've ever seen.  I was hooked by this kids voice so I went out in search of the show.  I found out that it was an Off-Broadway show that didn't do too well, but was liked enough to be made into a low budget short film a few years later.  Since then it has apparently been fairly popular among highschools and community theater groups around the world.  With a rep like that you'd expect that it would be easy to find videos and information on it.  Not so.  I searched to the ends of the internet but I couldn't find as much as a plot synopsis on this cult classic (albeit a tiny cult).  Last year, it looked as if my vain search would finally come to a close when I learned that a highschool a few hours (and by a few, I mean...like...five) from my house.   I talked it up a lot and got a whole group of friends to go and finally "the show that didn't exist".  Unfortunately, a spontaneous virus struck our little carpool and the theatrical field trip was cancelled.  I began to think that Thespis didn't want me to see the show at all!  Then, finally, fate smiled on me when I learned that Lassiter Highschool (which is only 15 minutes from my house) had chosen it for their winter musical.  I WAS SO EXCITED!!  I called up my friends (a few of which were in that original group) and we decided we were going to set out one Friday night to see the show....the only issue being, the show wasn't playing on Friday night, a little detail we didn't realize until we went to the school and were greeted by a rather confused and irritated janitor.  So I called up my friends to inform them that our excursion was once again postponed 'till a later date.  Then, finally, the next weekend, the day had finally arrived and I finally managed to see a production of:

The Show:
As it happens, Zombie Prom is really less about zombies than it is about Highschool.  The story follows a  high-school senior at Enrico Fermi High (anyone catch the reference?) named Toffee (all the girl students in the show are named after sweets) who is the stereotypical perky, poodle skirt clad preppy girl.  She unexpectedly falls for the town rebel, and when her family doesn't allow them to be together, (this is when things get just a tad unrealistic) he jumps into the vat of nuclear waste from the Power plant right next to the school.  But they story doesn't end there, because Toffee still needs a date to her senior prom.  Since she doesn't want to take anyone but her late boyfriend, he up and comes back from the dead (saved by the power of love) to take her.  The resurrected rebel now has to win back Toffee, stand up for zombie rights, and convince the principal of the school to allow him to attend his senior prom.  As you can expect, the show plays on overly campy stereotypes and is at it's best when the cheesiness scale explodes.  It's a nice, lighthearted, wonderfully ridiculous story about forbidden teenage love...and zombies.

The Production:
  • THE SET -- Actually, the set was one of the coolest parts of the show.  It consisted of two revolving staircases that also became a Nuclear power plant when the time came.  I'm a huge fan of levels and think they should be incorporated in every show possible.  I don't know that they utilized them as much as they could've, but I am glad they were there.
  • THE COSTUMES -- While the Zombie costume for Jonny wasn't as cool as the kid on the video, it was pretty well done and definitely very zombie-esc.  Apart from that the costumes were pretty standard, filled with Poodle Skirts and leather jackets.  However, in the midst of the slew of poodle skirt-clad young ladies, there were a few actresses who had other clothes from the same period.  This lack of conformity didn't take away, but it did get me curious as to how it came about.
  • CHOREOGRAPHY -- I'm not going to lie...it was pretty corny.  What it had going for it was the show is pretty corny, but still.  The best songs were the ones that didn't try to hard and maybe only had a few people on stage.  The bigger numbers (Johnny Don't Go comes to mind) were just way too forced and didn't make sense.
  • EVERYTHING ELSE -- The blocking of the show was pretty good, and the actual quality of the theater (stage, seating, sound, etc.) was actually really impressive.  It's a nice little place to do a show, not the best highschool stage I've seen, but certainly not the worst.  I also need to take this time to give a shout out to the coolest "bonus" of the show, which was what they did right after curtain call.  In what I expect to be the kids idea, the entire cast performed the line dance to Michael Jackson's THRILLER in it's full zombie awesomeness!  It was an excellent touch and the perfect way to end the show!!!
The Cast:

  • Cayla F. (Ms. Strict) -- Cayla probably had the most demanding role of the show, and really did a superb job.  Although she didn't quite have the vocal range to cover the entire role (I imagine few do, it's pretty broad), and this sometimes allowed her confidence to waver, when she was in her comfortable range she really shone.  Her acting was right on the mark and her character very believable.  She certainly carried several of the scenes she was in and was brilliantly casted.
  • Belle A. (Toffee) -- Belle was without a doubt the stand out performer of the show.  Her singing was excellent, her acting right on key, and her general energy and stage presence made her a theatrical force to be reckoned with.  Practically all of the shows strongest moments involved her and I was always excited to see her on stage.  Her bio indicated that she intended to graduate this year and pursue theater and I couldn't be happier for her, she definitely has some real talent and I can't wait for her to share it with the world.
  • Maxwell C. (Jonny Warner) -- Max (can I call you Max?) struggled a bit at the beginning of the show.  However, once he was fully zombie-a-fied and had gotten past his first major rock ballad (Blast From the Past) he really began to shine.  The love duet between him and Toffee (A Voice From the Ocean) was one of the best moments in the show and that was where you could really see his vocal chops flourish.  Although his diction was a little bit iffy on some of the faster songs (and he's got some doozies!) his performance was all together solid and he definitely deserved the role that he got.
  • Elliot B. (Eddie Flagrante) -- I had the pleasure of seeing Elliot perform in Act III's production of RENT: School Edition .  He did an excellent job in both shows, but I felt like his performance in this show was just a bit....small.  I mean, he wasn't bad, but he didn't open his mouth much when he sang, he tended to race through his lines, and his physical movements were not quite big enough.  Too be fair, the role he got was a tricky one (I'm not sure I could've done it justice) and he certainly did have his moments, but over all I just wish he would've let himself go more and played up the sleaze and smarm of the character a little more.
Supporting Cast:
  • Toffee's Posse --
    • Kelly L. and Bailey J. (Candy & Sandy) --I'm putting Kelly and Bailey together here because they are actually the same role.  Although in the original production the role of Sandy isn't supposed to exist, the director did a brilliant thing in splitting the role of Candy  (one of "Toffee's posse") into two twins who finished each other's sentences.  I can just about say that they were my favorite parts of the show because they were so in sync with each other and brought such a strong energy to the stage.  The best song of the show (Easy to Say) was sung by Toffee and her female chorus, including these two brilliant actresses.  All in all, they made most of my favorite moments of the show.  Congratulations ladies!
    • Hannah M. (Romona) -- Romona is one of the more "scandalous" roles in the show (at least as scandalous as a cheesy musical about highschool zombies in the 50's can be) and she did an excellent job.  She added a gritty aspect to the show that was definitely needed.
    • Elizabeth E. and Hannah M. (Coco & Ginger) -- Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of waiting this long to blog is it becomes harder to match names with faces.  I remember the two actresses who played Coco and Ginger, but I don't remember which name goes to which face. I do remember they both did a great job, and deserved to be congratulated.  I especially want to congratulate whichever one was the Alto of the group.  With this one exception (either Coco or Ginger), Toffee's squad was entirely comprised of soprano's and so this lone alto had her work cut out for her, but her voice was strong and she really played an important role in fleshing out many of their songs together and deserves to be commended.
  • Jonny's Boys --
    • Drew M. (Jake) -- I suppose Jake could be considered the leader of the gang (until Jonny shows up) and with that role comes (or should come) a confidence and swagger that just consumes the stage.  Drew seemed a bit reserved and uncomfortable (not uncommon for male highschool actors) which took away from that affect a bit.  However, there were moments in the show where he displayed the gravitas the role called for and at those times I was able to thoroughly enjoy his performance.
    • Stephen S. (Josh) -- My best description of this young man is SHOW STEALER!  With this I include the positive and negative implications.  When he was on stage, Stephen made sure that all eyes were on him.  Stephen was certainly hilarious and had a great sense of physical comedy that kept the audience in stitches the entire show (the ending prom scene was particularly side-splitting).  However as the show progressed, Stephen's scenery-chewing became a bit of a nuisance (like a joke you've heard too many times) and distracted from the story.  All in all he was still one of the funnest characters to watch, but it might have been good if the director had reigned him in on some of the more serious scenes.
    • Daniel H. (Joey) -- ...ok, I don't know exactly what to do with this guy.  He was.....welll....how shall I put this.  He vaguely reminded me of Roger Dupree [The Producers] at times .  Whether this was a character choice or just Daniel's personality I don't know, but it actually did a lot to define his character.
  • THE REST OF THE ENSEMBLE -- Everyone else did a pretty good job, they fell into a lot of traps of highschool theater (not singing loud enough, hugging the curtain, mumbling lines, etc.) but they did make for some really funny background moments (the "fierce" newspaper man and the boy dancing with a balloon come to mind).  All in all I wouldn't call the Ensemble great, but I suppose they weren't that bad compared to highschool standards.
As always, I had a fabulous night seeing Zombie Prom because of the delightful company I kept, and the fact that IT'S A MUSICAL!   Although it wasn't the best highschool production I've seen this year (sorry, Pebblebrook can't be beat), it was refreshing to see raw young talent simply doing a fun show and having fun with it.  I think I'll try to visit Lassiter Highschool shows more often (if they fix their scheduling issues) and I would suggest that my readers do the same if they get a chance.  Thank you for reading what very well might be my last blog post of the year (I might be persuaded to do a Christmas post...we'll see).  In case this is my last post of the year I want to thank you all for reading and hope you continue to do so.  Until next time...So long.

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