June 25, 2014
Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
The Zombies: A Musical
In this obsessive post- age walking dead world that we live in, it seems only natural to see that spill over into the theater scene. And with that, The Zombies: A Musical arrives Off-Broadway. Ralph Rivera presents this other worldly musical at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater on 42nd St. I was hoping for the best, but was let down by this musicals lack of focus and overly melodramatic writing.
The plot is simple, humans are being turned into zombies everywhere. Most of the play takes place in two locations; a coffee shop and a gun retail store. Everyone is trying to cope with life and most importantly, remain human. While folks are trying to stay alive inside these locales, zombies are trying to get in and feed on the humans.
The cast can’t cover up all the flaws of the script. At first, this appears to be a spoof of the “zombie craze”, and it has limited success in this arena, but then it tries to have these moments profound revelation that come out of nowhere. When the characters make personal revelation, it is almost laughable, instead of having the desired poignant effect. As a result, it is a mish-mosh of, somewhat effective, base humor and spontaneous “after school movie” moral teaching. I was left confused by the wayward aim of this play. Satire is great and so is melodrama. But in its current state, much like the zombies themselves, this work is in this foggy no-where land and goes on for too long.
The ensemble does a great job with the current script. Tricia Broot’s choreography is inventive and fun. Phillip Akoga delivers one of the stronger numbers in the work. His performance in, The Zombie Shuffle, was the highlight of the night. The ensemble is clearly dedicated and tries diligently to make this show work. There was an abundance of songs and styles that seem to not go together. I found myself hoping to find songs with emotional depth, but the music stayed surface level, which made the more serious moments, seem unearned.
I was sad to hear that the production is closing early, but I hope the creative team will take that time to rework this piece.