/ Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017
Sometimes adults can learn from their offspring, especially when it comes to such things as tolerance.
That is one of the sub-stories in Venice Theatre’s SummerStock production of “Zombie Prom,” a musical that is as wholesome as it is entertaining.
The classic tale of Toffee (Natalie Taylor), a good girl in love with Jonny (Beckett Pfanmiller), a bad boy, takes place at Enrico Fermi High School, where Miss Strict (Angela Benardo) rules the students with an iron hand and zero tolerance.
“This is not a democracy,” Strict says. “This is a high school!”
Toffee is cute and smart and college bound. When she becomes enamored with Jonny (he removed the “h” from his name as a sign of protest), her parents and Miss Strict break them up.
Distraught, Jonny drives his car into the “France Gary Powers Nuclear Waste Dump” and dies. Yet Toffee’s love for Jonny is so strong that he returns from the grave as a changed young man determined to graduate from high school. And, he’s green.
Directed and choreographed by Brad Wages, with musical direction by Peter Madpak, this production provides a fun and even inspiring evening of entertainment, and does it on steroids. Wages’ dances numbers are well-done and well-performed. There is even a ghost scene.
Jonathan Hall’s costumes are perfect for the period, but on opening night there was a major mishap with Toffee’s prom dress. The entire back opened up, yet the actress never missed a beat, managing to keep the dress up with help from some of her fellow actors, who tried to refasten the costume. Despite their efforts, that was not to be.
Benardo turns in a stellar performance, living up to her character’s name in spades, right until the surprise ending.
Adding additional fun to this entertaining show is Nethaneel Williams as Eddie Flagrente, an Expose Magazine columnist who recognizes a “hot” story when he sees one.
“The Voice in the Ocean,” sung by Jonny and Toffee, is a poignant reminder that this is a love story, although with some powerful messages as well as good, solid entertainment. Adding to the fun are Casey Berkery as Josh, Benjamin Walker as Jake, Noah Roderiques as Joey, Claudia Hassler as Coco, Taylor Reister as Candy and Patty McGuire as Ginger, with Alyssa Pasick as Ramona Merengue.
Megan Hartnett portrayed Toffee’s mother and Alexander Keaton Gruendl played her father.
“Zombie Prom” hits on all eight cylinders, providing it deserves to be on the MainStage of the No. 1 (per capita) community theater in the country.
Sets are by Brian Freeman, with sound by Jaclyn Ledoux, lighting by John Michael Andzulis and stage management by Lisa Million.
“Zombie Prom,” with music by Dana P. Rowe, book and lyrics by John Dempsey, is based on a story by Dempsey and Hugh Murphy. It was a stage musical in 1993 and a film in 2006.
“Zombie Prom” plays on the theater’s MainStage through Aug. 12, with evening performance at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and matinees Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $14 for college students and $12 for children.
Visit the box office at the theater weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before showtime; call 941-488-1115; or visit VeniceStage.com
Note: The SummerStock cast will perform its own original cabaret, “Zombie Serenade, Songs in the Key of Aaaiiieee!” as part of Venice Theatre’s Fifth Annual Summer Cabaret Festival on Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 10 and 11 at 11 p.m.