At last year's Shock Stock, Schwartz & I came across a booth for something called...
Naturally, we inquired and were told that the people behind the Evil Dead Musical were putting together a stage version of the George A. Romero classic. Well, fast forward to now, and that production is now upon us.
Night of the Living Dead Live was a really fun time. I really didn't know what to expect, but was extremely happy with the results. The first scene with Barbra & Johnny in the cemetery played out pretty much the same as the source material, but then the humour & parody appeared and I clocked into the tone of the show overall. NOTLD Live pokes fun at of the material and the genre itself, all in a well maintained and non-overbearing manner. It is not a musical like Evil Dead, but I guarantee the one number at the end will rattle around in your head for a few days afterwards.
Technically, the show was well executed, as they found clever ways to deal with the limitations of their set, such as utilizing the upper levels and a projection screen, which played appropriately-themed vintage ads before the show. The choice to make the actors and sets black and white was also a nice touch.
|Hey, there's a sale on trowels at the hardware store!|
There was also an interactive element to the show, as well. In addition to the cast actually coming out into the aisles on a few occasions, there were also several ghoulish volunteers in the audience. Triggered by an on-stage sign marked “Blaargh!”, this designated moan zone would come to life during certain moments of the show. This was yet another added touch that got laughs every time.
The cast was superb, with not one weak link among them. The roles were physical, and with many of them playing multiple roles that meant a lot of running around in the dark backstage. I feel I should single out three of the players. Darryl Hinds, who played the doomed protagonist Ben, was fantastic. I felt he must have studied Duane Jones' performance very closely, as he delivered the lines with the exact same cadence. Trevor Martin as Chief McClelland was good for countless laughs, expanding on George Kosana's matter-of-fact portrayal of the original. Lastly, was Dale Boyer who played not only Harry Cooper's wife Helen, but also Judy. This made way for some great comedic moments as to why both characters couldn't be on stage at the same time.
|Darryl Hinds as Ben|
|Mike Nahrgang (left) as Harry Cooper, Gwynne Phillips as Barbra, Andrew Fleming as Tom & Dale Boyer as Helen.|
As I was watching the show, I became aware that it was moving at a very brisk pace. Then it was revealed that the second half features several “what-if” scenarios, like what if the gang had gone down in the cellar like Mr. Cooper wanted to? Would things have turned out differently? This was a welcome bonus that really took the show to another level.
Night of the Living Dead Live was a hugely entertaining night out, and the light hearted and PG nature of the proceeding didn't hurt it at all. The show is still playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto until the 19th, so I urge you to catch it if you can. It's a bit pricey, but you won't be disappointed. You can find ticket info here.
*set photo courtesy of Ali Chappell. Ben photo courtesy of Bloody-Disgusting.