Jason Serinus

Loosen your belt; you’re in for a casket full of laughs. Young Zombies in Love, Emerald Rain Productions’ musical spoof of every Grade D zombie movie ever made, is a hilarious romp through the dark and light of zombiedom. You will giggle, you will cheer, you will shake your head in amazement, as this reworking of a production that debuted in 2001 leaves you grateful for the cinematic dreck from which it springs.

There is a youthful freshness to the show which one expects from a company whose members’ ages range from 21 to an over-the-hill 33. Though the libretto’s author, Damian Hess, and the show’s music director and co-composer (with Hess), Gaby Alter, are a mere 28, their skill reminds one of the precociousness of youth. Alter, who co-founded Emerald Rain Productions in 1993, was only 24 years of age when he received the 1998 Bay Area Critic’s Circle Award for Best Original Score for the Emerald Rain Production of Vapor Tales; from all indications, more awards are to come his way.

The central characters of the show, two high school seniors named Lu and Nick, are fetchingly portrayed by Bernadette Quattrone and Henry Perkins. Somewhere in the midst of their hardly hot love drama, the couple happens upon the remains of Jimmy and Jamie Fodder. These twin high school football players have been reduced to Zombie idiocy by Slashy, a frightening former cheerleader cum Zombie threat. The ensuing mayhem, which threatens a level of human devolution which promises to leave the Bush debacle looking like an amateurish opening act, provides plenty of excuses for rousing song and dance.

Alter’s music, which reflects the influence of rock, funk, electronica, calypso, swing, and country, is adorned with ludicrous lyrics trés tongue in cadaver. Mark Whittaker is a truly convincing buffoon as Jimmy Fodder, while Brendan Simon portrays his twin Jamie (who look nothing like him) with an ease and choreographic grace that rarely surface in Zombiedom. Slashy is played by played by Harvey, a young woman who otherwise revels in performing her poetry, prose, and one-woman productions. Alter at one point abandons his keyboard to don glasses as the amusing Mad Dr. Itsucolt, while Jerry Bradbury, the one person in the cast who looks over 40, does a fine job in the classic role of the pot-belied, fascistic Sheriff Herbert Nazington. The other players, Joanna Carichner (Mrs. Drue), Noah James Butler (a ridiculous SWAT King who leaves the audience in stitches, and later reappears as A Priest), and Lily Tung (A Very Old Zombie who of course sings and dances) are equally fine.

There are nine musical numbers, available along with other gems from past Emerald Rain Productions on a well-recorded CD. Though you may not leave the show whistling the tunes, you’ll feel their cumulative effects as you fight temptation to cartwheel out of your seat during the more upbeat numbers. This is a show in which every Zombie howl is echoed by cries of delight from its enthusiastic audience.

(C) 2002

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