I don’t get to see enough stage and theater productions, but it’s shows like this that are guaranteed to get me out and sitting excitedly in a seat.
At the beginning of its three-week run, Night of the Living Dead Live, currently on stage at the Theatre Passe Muraille on Ryerson Ave, is not only on it’s way to becoming a cult classic and fan favorite, it pays wonderful homage to the original 1968 film while injecting a lot of sly humor and poking good fun at it.
I was eager to get to the theater and get a good seat, what someone should have told me is that there doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in this theater, that didn’t stop me from making sure we got a front row seat – I wanted to be as close as I could and enjoy every nuance of the performances.
And the zombies.
It’s amazing how, thanks to George A. Romero’s classic film, horror has spawned a whole sub-genre of films, television shows, comic books and video games. Yes, zombies had been around before the 1968 film, but it was Romero and his cast and crew that turned them into household nightmares. Even to this day the original film holds up and can be seen as a commentary on war, society itself, or just enjoyed for the terrifying romp it still is.
The show’s writers, Christopher Bond, who also serves as Director, Dale Boyer, who plays Helen/Judy/Army General/zombie and Trevor Martin , who plays Chief McClelland/zombie/news anchor/Ben get that, and they obviously love the material. They have crafted a tightly paced, hugely entertaining, scare-filled laugh riot that is bound to entertain whether you’ve seen the original film or not.
The cast is rounded out with Darryl Hinds as Ben/TV reporter/Chief McClelland, Mike Nahrgang as Harry Cooper/scientist, Gwynne Phillips as Barbara/Karen/zombie and Andrew Fleming as Tom/Johnny/Vince/Bill Cardille. Yup, you read that right, each cast member plays a number of roles, and to great effect, Boyer gets a wonderful line about it that had the audience laughing and applauding.
The show is divided into two acts, and the first encompasses all the major beats of the film, all the moments you want are there… including the immortal, “They’re coming to get you Barbara!”
The second half features McClelland and Vince spinning what-if theories that then get acted out with hilarious consequences.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the show is that it’s done in black and white.
You read that right.
The multi-level set, the wardrobe, yes, even the actors make-up. Fantastic. It sets the mood perfectly, and then allows the interaction with the original film, in a couple of sequences to add to its believability.
So brilliantly fun!
A short way through the second act, the stage was plunged into darkness. The cast riffed on it, suggesting they find a fuse box, but we, the audience were soon informed that the lighting board had fried. While the tech crew tried to fix it, the show must go on after all, the cast came out sharing stories, jokes and answering questions.
They were joined in the questions and storytelling by the movies original producers Russ Steiner, as well as John A. Russo, the film’s screenwriter. For what must have been frustrating for cast and crew as they struggled to restore power they made the best of it wonderfully, and I think it actually enhanced the audience’s enjoyment of the performance, which then continued without stage lighting, but with house lights, and hand-held lights as spots.
Every one of the cast members turns in a fantastic performance, obviously enjoying the show, their fellows, and the joyous reactions they elicit from the audience.
The applause at the show’s end, was rousing, and had to be such a rush for them.
If you love the original film, if you love theater, if you like a good laugh, if you like zombies, there is no reason for you not to see this show during its three-week engagement!
I cannot voice, or even write how much fun I had at this show, only that I can’t recommend it enough.
See it, laugh, jump, applaud.
You’ll love it!
Check out their site here to book your tickets! Do it quick, because…
“They’re coming to get you get you, Barbara!!”