Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Promethean Theater: Song of the Living Dead (5 reviews)

The Promethean Theatre opened its production of the musical Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical on August 19, 2011.
The show follows the classic love story of a young couple. While out together running some errands and enjoying their newly-engaged bliss, the sweethearts unwittingly stumble into a full-fledged zombie attack.  What follows is a musically accompanied account of the skin crawling, zombie fighting, brain craving mayhem and a true testament to the couple's "Undying Love." Named Creative Loafing Readers' Pick for Best Theater Premiere & Best Play in Atlanta. The Promethean Theatre is the first theatre outside of Dad's Garage to produce this play.
Margaret Ledford directed a cast that included Clay Cartland, Robert Coward, Mark Della Ventura, Lindsey Forgey, Mary Gundlach, Jaimie Kautzmann, Christopher A. Kent, Noah Levine, Joshua Olivares, and Sharyn Peoples.

John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Sharyn Peoples has a nice, light comic touch in her performance as Peggy, and is cute in her song of self-deprecation, "Socially Retarded." She is balanced well with the broader comedic style of Lindsey Elizabeth Forgey as Judith. Forgey's is at her best in the song "Eat Me."
Clay Courtland is indeed "awesome" in his over-the-top portrayal of the arrogant, rogue commando, Harry Hardman, as exemplified in his song "I'm Fucking Awesome." He doesn't seem to miss a comic opportunity. He and Christopher A. Kent as George give the strongest performances in the show...
Without a doubt, Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical is a coarse and silly, irreverent spoof of all that is zombie. Though the show does not contain the extensive effects used in their similar production of Evil Dead: The Musical, the effects that are here (lots of blood packs) all go off without a hitch. It is a production amusing enough to have you half-smiling through most of the show (though I could have done without the singing Zombie Fetus).
John Thomason reviewed for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
...the Promethean may be the only company in South Florida that could have pulled it off. Director Margaret Ledford and Producing Artistic Director Deborah L. Sherman have become veterans of exactly this brand of bloody, pop-smart, youthcentric musical theater for people who don't like musicals. Their Song of the Living Dead proceeds with seeming effortlessness and copious amounts of red paint and TLC. This is one of those rare, miraculous shows that gets everything right...
The show is performed by a cast that couldn't be more attuned to the exaggerated zombie-movie archetypes they portray... Clay Cartland is a scene-stealing dynamo as Harry Hardman, a maniacal, sex-addicted corporate CEO...
As Rev. Seabrook... Noah Levine is the cast's most natural comedian, generating laughs with facial expressions alone. Mark Della Ventura is hilarious in three roles, the best of which is a gay crime-fighting Orthodox Jew, and Jaimie Kautzmann is an arresting supporting player who resembles a tween Rachel Maddow in her signature role as a zombie kid.
The song list is not included in the Promethean's program so as to protect the element of surprise. Indeed, Song of the Living Dead is a show best approached with little knowledge of the story — just go and witness a flawless ensemble overtaken with the sheer joy of performing.
J. W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Song is many things. It’s silly, raunchy, gross and even more than a little gay. And, like the other shows, if you’re seated in the first two rows, the so-called “splatter zone,” watch out because there’s lots of blood and other simulated bodily fluids and you will be a target. Don’t worry though you will be provided with a plastic sheet for protection. Most importantly, the show is fun.
As with most campy parodies, a show like Song can be really good or really bad. Fortunately, Director Margaret Ledford has staged the best possible production.

Kent... offers a flawless performance, matched by Peoples’ hapless Peggy and the instantaneous transformation by Levine during the hilarious and definitely unexpected musical number, Gays for Jesus.

But, it’s the brilliant performance by newcomer Clay Courtland as evil businessman Harry Hardman that steals the show.
The actors are backed by creative work from sound designer Matt Corey, lighting designer Patrick Tennant and cartoon-like set by Daniel Gelbmann. A clever backlit screen shows old zombie movies before the show and then is used as a key element of the action thanks to a number of original videos and graphics.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Audience members who aren’t put off by foul language, frequent blood spatters, gross-out moments such as eating dead bodies, extreme irreverence in the religious sense, sophomoric humor, cheesy lyrics married to peppy showtunes are certain to come out of The Promethean Theatre’s Song of the Living Dead satiated with two hours of dumb mindless fun.
What keeps the show afloat are the energetic performances from an uniformly game (not gamy) cast, the comic touches from director Margaret M. Ledford and the intentionally dopey choreography by Chrissi Arditto. Special credit goes to Christopher Kent who stepped in last Tuesday for the ailing Matthew William Chizever.
Even the ensemble throw themselves unreservedly into the silliness – and multiple roles, especially Mark Della Ventura and Joshua Oliveras who portray a gay couple composed of a Jew and an Indian (the New Dehli variety).
Best of all is Noah Levine as a detestably hypocritical Jimmy Swaggart-like preacher who extols Jesus at the same moment he is excoriates anyone who isn’t white, straight and Christian. He exudes that slimy revivalist charisma with joyous abandon...
...Promethean has brought in some talented folks to work behind the scenes. Notable among them is costumer Ellis Tillman who chose everything from George’s horrid plaid pants and white belt to Hardman’s Rambo outfit with “muscles” sewn into the sleeves. The four-piece band is ably led by Phil Hinton.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical is silly, funny, bloody, vulgar and ridiculous – which pretty much makes it the perfect summer show for The Promethean Theatre.

Authors Matt Horgan and Travis Sharp, working with composer Eric Frampton, don’t pull off a musical with the coherence of either Cannibal! or Evil Dead (neither of which would serve as a model of musical theater structure). But within their ramshackle zombie tale, the creators manage moments of gross, gleeful zaniness. And Promethean drains every last drop of humor – and blood – from its latest zombie fest.
The newly engaged George (Christopher A. Kent, stepping in admirably for the ailing Matthew William Chizever) and Judith (a winsomely voluptuous Lindsey Elizabeth Forgey), much like ultra-wholesome Brad and Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, become obvious targets. So is Judith’s mom Peggy (the goofy Sharyn Peoples, a terrific actor-singer-comedian), a socially hopeless medical examiner with a snorting laugh, a woman who finds it far easier to “interact” with the corpse stretched out on her metal table than with anyone still breathing.
The guy who makes off with the show is Clay Cartland as businessman Harry Hardman, Judith’s ultra-macho ex-boyfriend. Just how comically insufferable is Harry? Well, his major love song in the show is about himself, and it’s titled (asterisks required) I’m F**king Awesome. Cartland plays Harry’s every condescending, misogynistic moment to the max, and he’s funny as hell.

Among the supporting performers, the standouts are Mark Della Ventura (particularly as Bruce, a Jewish guy whose favorite color is apparently pink) and Joshua Oliveras as Bruce’s “special” pal Raj.

The Promethean team... go all-out to bring every excessive moment of the script and score to life. Song of the Living Dead is certainly the opposite of serious, tasteful theater. But hey, it’s a show about zombies.
Promethean Theatre presents Song of the Living Dead at the Black Box Theatre of Nova Southeastern University through September 10, 2011.

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