Theater review: ‘Zombie Prom’ at HART

THE MOSTER MASH: Un-dead Jonny, played by Maximilian Koger, just wants to go to the high school dance in HART Theatre's Zombie Prom. Photo by John Highsmith
THE MOSTER MASH: Un-dead Jonny, played by Maximilian Koger, just wants to go to the high school dance in HART Theatre's Zombie Prom. Photo by John Highsmith

If you love teenage romance twisted up with old-school sci-fi and an ever-present do-wop musical score, Zombie Prom, the latest production of Haywood Arts Regional Theatre, will be right up your dark alley. The show runs through Sunday, Oct. 29. HART will also host an actual Zombie Prom on Saturday, Oct. 28, as a fundraiser.

But back to the play. Director Mark Jones, musical director Sarah Fowler and choreographer Jessica Garland have poured their talents into an energetic evening of family-friendly, Halloween-themed entertainment.

The story is simple enough: Young Toffee (sung with bubbly vitality by Clara Ray Burris) is in love with rebellious Jonny — who dropped the “h” from his name on purpose to prove his bad-boy nature.

When Toffee’s family disapproves and forces her to dump Jonny, the Enrico Fermi High bad boy drives headlong into a nuclear power plant. Jonny dies a horrible, irradiated death and is buried at sea with nuclear waste. But Toffee’s mourning brings him back — as a zombie — just in time for prom.

Maximilian Koger plays Jonny with a delightfully goofy smile and an angelic singing voice. The undead rebel is a controversial figure within the school. Half the students welcome him back, while others reject his walking-dead presence in their halls.

Principal Delilah Strict (an always-in-top-form Karen Covington) is the overbearing administrator who lives up to her name, imposing firm rules and regulations, while reigning over the students with an iron fist. She threatens to cancel all activities within the school if Toffee allows Jonny to roam the halls in pursuit of true love. Poor Jonny only wants to be with Toffee and to finish high school.

Intrepid tabloid reporter Eddie Flagrante gets wind of the scandalous zombie who plagues the school and dashes off to become a champion for undead rights. Dominic Michael Aquilino lights up the stage as the flamboyant Flagrante. There is also a history with Flagrante and Strict, who once had a tumultuous romance. They harbor deep feelings and at least one major secret between them. Aquilino and Covington deliver a show-stopping song and tango number that is filled with a dizzying array of double entendres and dance moves. This five minutes alone is worth the price of admission.

The show is clever and filled with jokes that will delight adults and children alike. It can easily be summed up with Toffee’s declaration to Jonny that her parents didn’t care for him that much when he was alive and will probably not like him now that he’s dead. With decaying tongue placed firmly in rotting cheek, the play delights from first notes to final bows.

WHAT: Zombie Prom
WHERE: HART Theatre, 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville, harttheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Oct. 29, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $10-20

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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