By Bill Hirschman
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.
Check your brains at the door – because that’s what the titular zombies crave to eat during this monstrous musical that comes with plastic sheeting to cover the audiences sitting in the splatter zone close to the stage.
Like several area theaters, Promethean produces thought-provoking dramas during much of the year. However, Promethean uses the summer to mount entertainment without a single intellectually redeeming calorie. But the budget for those other theaters’ jukebox revues and farces don’t have line items for buckets of fake blood and industrial-strength stain remover.
Song is far funnier and better put together than Promethean’s previous forays, Cannibal! The Musical and Evil Dead the Musical. But it shares a style that melds The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Saturday Night Live, and TV’s South Park. Such fare suddenly has been legitimized by Broadway’s The Book of Mormon although the construction and execution of that material is on another multi-million-dollar plane.
Nothing delivers potential patrons an accurate litmus test more than the song titles: (brace yourself): “He Only Loves You For Your Brains”; “I’m F—ing Awesome”; “I’m Gay For Jesus”; and an 11o’clock number that Ethel Merman never imagined, “Eat Me.”
If you can let your inhibitions go, Song often is hilarious if supremely crude and tasteless. It’s real problem is that the four underlying jokes recycled at you for two hours wears thin – and that point will come a lot earlier for some folks than others.
Song was created by composer Eric Frampton and book writers Matt Horgan and Travis Sharp through Atlanta’s Dad’s Garage Theatre Company. The pastiche score includes Broadway production numbers, country-western ballads and two roof-raising gospel numbers.
The plot tells of two naïve polyester-clad lovebirds, Brad and Janet, sorry, I mean George and Judith (Christopher A. Kent and Lindsey Elizabeth Forgey) whose engagement plans are cut short by an invasion of George Romero zombies with an taste for frontal lobes.
As they seek refuge, we also meet an equally strange group of refugees. There’s the lovelorn coroner Peggy (Sharyn Peoples) who sings to a corpse on her autopsy table: “It’s a good thing you departed / Because I’m socially retarded.” To keep one pregnant zombie at bay, she feeds it handfuls of brains from former patients like she was training a pet.
Judith’s former beau is the ultra-rich, obnoxious and muscle-bound Harry Hardman (a wonderfully over the top Clay Cartland) who wants to win Judith back.
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 while singing inside a dumpster the power ballad, “Why Are You Cornholing Me, Jesus?” We told you it was irreverent.
Much of the plot can be seen coming two or three comic book pages ahead including George getting bitten by a zombie and Judith’s eventual solution to their plight encapsulated by the lyrics: (spoiler alert) “I’m choosing suicide / so I can be your bride / I need you inside me / so eat me.”
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 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).
There are some decent voices under the direction of William J. Adams, but even the best singers miss notes and mumble words.
Underneath the hodgepodge, 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.
With its tongue sticking through its rotting cheek, Song of the Living Dead is an evening that clearly is not for everyone. But some folks are going to have a hellishly good time.
Song of the Living Deadruns through Sept.10 at The Promethean Theatre, performing at the Black Box Theater in Nova Southeastern University’s Don Taft University Center, 3301 College Avenue, Davie. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday .Tickets are $25. Call (866) 811-4111 or visit www.theprometheantheatre.org.