It’s a Saturday night. You could go see that new movie or see that band that’s playing a show nearby. You could go out drinking again for the 50th time. But wouldn’t you rather be entertained by a singing, dancing troupe of zombies?
“Zombie Love” tells the tale of a 200-year-old zombie, Dante, who falls in love with a human girl named Claudia after heroically saving her from two grave robbers. He tries to turn against his zombie ways in order to win her love, despite the ridicule of his friends. With the help of a blind, transvestite prostitute who teaches him the ways of human attraction, he decides to use makeup to keep up a human façade.
Dressed as a human, Dante charms Claudia with romantic verse. They have an amazing first date, but problems eventually start to get in the way of their relationship. Dante can’t ignore his cravings for human flesh and Claudia wants to – ahem – get more physical, something Dante can’t offer as a zombie. But more than anything, Claudia wants to be with the zombie who saved her life. Little does she know that the very zombie she pines for was with her all along and only wants to be accepted for who he really is.
The musical is just one of a whole series of new zombie-related entertainment that seems to have become a trend recently. You could say zombies are becoming the new vampires, with all the new movies, books and the premiere of “Walking Dead” and other TV shows. Movies like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland” have transcended the horror genre and brought zombies into the comedy genre. And now, musical theatre has apparently welcomed zombies into its threshold.
Highlights of the musical were obviously its sense of humor. The idea of a zombie musical is funny in itself, but there were enough jokes and references to keep you entertained the whole way through. There was a nod to “Thriller” and its dance moves, which is practically an obligation if you are to make any pop culture zombie references. During the grave robbing scene in which Dante first meets Claudia, the two grave robbers try to threaten Dante with their moves reminiscent of the opening scene of “West Side Story” to scare him off.
The jokes within the songs were even funnier because they were set to music. Hearing a zombie sing his point of view on romance is priceless. “You make me feel so real/You are more than just a meal,” Dante sings upon first seeing Claudia. And later, “How my dead heart beats for you … I have never felt so un-undead!”
One of the funniest songs, “It’s Good To Be Dead,” was an upbeat, 60s mod-esque tribute to Dante from his zombie friends. They notice his desire for a more human life and try to convince him that his life is great as it is. It is what “Under the Sea” is to the “The Little Mermaid,” only for zombies. The girl zombies were great in a dance sequence in the middle of this song, with their shuffled movements and vacant stares set to the snappy music.
A few of the minor characters also stood out in the play. The blind transvestite prostitute practically stole the show. Clad in a corset and sparkling gold leggings, she came out cat-calling members of the audience. She knew how to work the physical humor of her role. There was also a hilarious, inexperienced zombie who apparently died while playing tennis in the 70s as his sweatband, short shorts and polo shirt would portray.
Unfortunately, the leading actor took a step back compared to these other members of the cast. However, his character became much more interesting in the second half of the play. At first, his joke delivery did not mesh well with the crowd. As both the lead actor and the creator of this stage adaptation of “Zombie Love” (the original was a short student film of the same name), his enthusiasm for the project was clear, but at times went overboard. Whether it was his microphone or not, he, as well as many other members of the cast, were entirely too loud for the small room the musical was held in.
The singing could have been better as well. It could be due, once again, to the loudness, but you couldn’t hear the melodies very clearly and there was a fair share of out-of-tune moments. Claudia was an exception to this, however, and sang beautifully. But upon hearing the music from the “Zombie Love” film afterward, the songs were much more recognizable and likeable.
The jokes also became extravagant and excessive as well. There was a lot of slapstick humor (which the play seemed to rely upon) that seemed forced and a bit cliché and conventional. The references to other movies and musicals were funny but there were too many and they became repetitive after a while. Some just didn’t work out either, like when Dante brought out his Bruce Lee impression for a fight scene.
That being said, the live musical did add a lot of things that were not in the original film which were funny. Eric Furuheim’s adaptation was very creative and is worthy of admiration. It is just unfortunate that the extravagance of the actors and the jokes were a distraction from the story.