Columbia’s theatre community is on fire this semester. With everything from songs of Autumn to the Prince of Denmark, stages have been lit up again and again. This week, Bwog’s favorite zombie aficionado Kem Walker stopped by Lerner 5 for an undead surprise:
The premise of “Zombie Prom,”— essentially a satire of ‘50s teen romance, isn’t one that would ordinarily excite. And after reading the liner notes, excitement wouldn’t be the right word to describe what was more of a pleasant anticipation at the thought of being entertained.
The musical, originally off-Broadway, revels in cliché. A lot of the performance hinges on familiar cultural conceits, not especially confronting, but soothing. The production showed some real interest, though, in the spin-offs, including some insightful decisions by director Zoe Sansted, CC ’12, (an early appearance of some lecturing parents set a lovely playful tone).
Though it might not have been exactly what writer John Dempsey had in mind, this production was charming for its curiosity. A slight distractedness on stage was happily forgiven, keeping in mind it was set at a high school. The musical accompaniment, a little loose at times and often a bit too loud was endearing nonetheless.
Chris Evans, CC ’15, played the eponymous role of Jonny Warner— the zombie with nervous charisma— and colored a lot of the energy on stage. Indeed, the casting of this production took the lead character to a third level of absurdity: less Ponyboy, less singing Zombie (as the impressive green getup would suggest), and more Hugh Grant stuttering an introduction. Like Hugh Grant stuttering an introduction, a lot of the show was not especially impressive, but still had a sort of winning charm.
Most of the fun came from Sam Mickel, CC ’14, and Alia Munsch, BC ’12, who stole the show with their tango, taking the play briefly to a place of outstanding alacrity and presence of mind. Their chemistry was more interesting than the Jonny’s with Toffee, not least because of Sam’s cheeky confidence when accompanying others, which stole the crowd’s attention more than once.
The role of bubbly, naïve, well-behaved Toffee from the suburbs was filled exactly, perfectly, and remarkably by Emily Feinstein. Her singing voice was a pleasure to listen to, and helped the band stay pretty well in tune and time. With a pretty pink outfit and long blonde pigtails, she had a commanding visual presence on stage.
Her colors mixed pleasantly with the other girls’ dresses, and the simply painted set designs completed a happy visual scene that outshone some of the wobblier aspects of the performance.
Amongst the cheerful earnestness of a lot of “Zombie Prom,” there are some moments of light which make it worth your while. It probably won’t blow your mind, but it’s a fun night out.
“Zombie Prom” has two more shows today at 2 pm and 8 pm. Tickets are available at the TIC for $5 with CUID, $10 without.