Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The musical takes place in the 1950s as the threat of a nuclear holocaust and the potential sudden drone of air raid sirens are always top of mind. It's a typical day for the teens at Enrico Fermi High as they discuss dating and school plans while under the watchful eye of their rigid, ruler-wielding principal, Miss Strict (Noelle Parent). Jonny Warner (Connor Olden), the leather jacket wearing rebel who intentionally spells his name without the "h", and good girl Toffee (Iris Van Slyke) fall in love, but following a short period of dating, Toffee breaks it off after being pressured by her parents and Miss Strict's insistence that Jonny is a bad influence. So, Jonny does what any heartbroken teen does and flings himself into a vat of toxic goo at the Francis Gary Power nuclear power plant and is buried at sea. Jonny reappears a few weeks later as a green-hued zombie, and reporter Eddie Flagrante (Andrew Wildermuth) picks up news of there being a zombie in town. Thus, a plot is set in motion for Jonny to be accepted for who he is and to be allowed to take Toffee to the prom, with which Miss Strict clearly has major issues.
While the plot of Zombie Prom is fairly predictable, there is a fun twist in the second act that makes for a rewarding conclusion. John Dempsey's book and lyrics include some very funny lines that tie into the 1950s setting, the atomic age, and the topic of zombies, and the music by Dana P. Rowe is bright and lively.
The Actor's Youth Theatre cast all seem to be having a blast playing these period characters. While some of the cast's singing abilities are just OK, all of their portrayals are sharp and bright. Connor Olden and Iris Van Slyke are affable and endearing as Jonny and Toffee, and Andrew Wildermuth is a hoot as the zany tabloid reporter. Noelle Parent has appeared in dozens of shows in town and here she delivers another exceptional performance, with expert line delivery and warm singing vocals. Valerie Codling, London Crosby, Saniya Sapakie, Porter Carr, Colin Quintana, and Tyler Gilmore play the two trios of boys and girls who are friends with Jonny and Toffee and all have good comic timing and solid stage presence.
Director Xelha Castrejob is successful in deriving solid performances from the large cast. Djuro Baich's period choreography is peppy, varied, and fun. There is even some tap in one number that shines.
Zombie Prom is a musical on the lighter side, with an almost entirely predictable plot, but it's still a fun, quick, witty, and quirky show that delivers laughs.
This production is double cast with alternating performers playing the lead roles.
Zombie Prom runs through October 29, 2022, at Actor's Youth Theatre at the Tuscany Theatre, 861 N Higley Rd, Suite 105, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.actorsyouththeatre.org or by calling 480-907-7050
Director/Music Director: Xelha Castrejob