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Musical Review
 

 

 

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Christopher D Clegg presents

 

ZOMBIE PROM

 

Toffee (Sophie Issacs) and Jonny (Jonathan Vickers)

 

 

Book & Lyrics: John Dempsey

Director: Ian McFarlane

Musical Direction: George Dyer

Music: Dana P Rowe

Choreography: Grace Harrington

 

Landor Theatre

 

20 October – 14 November 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

If I had to choose between watching a Shakespeare play and a musical, give me Shakespeare. Make me choose between Brecht and a musical, give me Brecht. In short, a musical isn’t my preferred form of entertainment and, if I had the choice, I wouldn’t go out of my way to sit in the audience for one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate them, but taste is taste.

So lo and behold, I am sitting in the Landor Theatre, ten minutes away from the start of John Dempsey’s new musical, Zombie Prom. In front of me, stuck to the back of the set are hundreds of old horror movie posters (which admittedly, brought a smile to my face) and on the left sat a keyboard and drum-kit. The lights go down, the show starts, and the music begins.

You could probably make an educated guess as to what the play is about, purely from the title. Zombie Prom is set in the 1950s, around the time of the invention of the atomic bomb. Enrico Ferri High (geddit?) is home to those typical 50s school-kids - always wanting to have fun, have boyfriends, and have a dress for the prom. In comes Jonny (Jonathan Vickers, making his professional debut), a rebellious and handsome young boy who has transferred from a different state. Immediately drawing the attention of beautiful blonde Toffee (Sophie Issacs, also in her first production), the two fall in love. However, Jonny isn’t the kind of boy Toffee’s parents like so they force her to break up with him. Jilted, Jonny throws himself into the nearby nuclear plant and kills himself. However, miraculously, Jonny comes back from the dead as a zombie. Still in love with Toffee, he tries to win her back, as well as graduate from high school, against the wishes of mean Miss Strict.

So, having got the formalities out of the way, it’s only fair that I make my first real judgement on the production - Tremendous!

Zombie Prom is a musical in the vein of Grease and Hairspray (yes, I have seen both), capturing that stereotypical ‘50’s high school vibe with a constant wink-wink humour that works excellently. It is a musical that doesn’t aim to take itself seriously. Instead, it pokes fun at every turn, not only within the confines of the play, but also through exaggerated acting and long-held high notes.

One thing that needs to be credited is the subject matter. Dempsey has managed to tap in to the perfect audience. The ‘50’s seems to produce top-notch musicals (ala the names above) so you would expect an audience to be drawn towards another one. On top of that, zombies are the darlings of the entertainment industry at the moment. Bringing those two together was an excellent idea, and managing to work them into a brilliant and entertaining production was even better.

The actors, too, are amazing. Jackie Marks, playing Miss Strict,  and Simon Cole as Eddie Flagrante show their theatrical experience with strong performances, but the production definitely belongs to the debuting main leads. As Jonny and Toffee, Vickers and Issacs are fantastic. The two are full of confidence, never faltering under pressure in what I felt were extremely difficult songs at times. Comic timing was also crucial and they nailed that down too. Special mention also needs to be given to the supporting cast, who also honoured their roles with expertise. It needs to be said that everybody was strong in their performances – be it the lead or the supporting cast. Each actor stamped their presence on the stage, and that enhanced the enjoyment of the show.

Music, of course, needs to be touched on. First and foremost, the decision to have the live band right there on the side of the stage was a great one, and it was nice to see first-hand just how tough their job can be. That being said, they excelled with what I thought was a great score. Admittedly, I don’t feel the songs were on par with other already established musicals, but that by no means is a criticisms of what I thought was a good score. The songs ranged from the soppily romantic to the downright hilarious, always with that recurring sarcastic tone.

I came out of the theatre with my friend (also not a musical-goer) and I came to a conclusion whilst talking to him which I will share with you now. For me, a show should be graded on whether it could be recommended and I would, without thinking twice, recommend this to anyone. Maybe this is me being naïve (and not knowing of what may be breathtaking musicals already around) but I would easily go and watch this at the West End. And, in my humble opinion, it deserves to move on to a bigger stage.

 

 

 

Tuesday to Saturday: 7.30pm

 Sunday Matinee: 3pm

Ticket Prices: £15 (£12 concessions)

The Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, London, SW9 9PH

http://www.landortheatre.co.uk

Box Office: 020 7737 7276

 

 

 

 

 

 

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