Review: Zombie Prom (The Confidential Musical Theatre Project)

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The Confidential Musical Theatre Project tackles Zombie Prom in its second Toronto instalment

The Confidential Musical Theatre Project is an innovative new performance concept that recently held its second show in Toronto. You can click here to find out more about the core concept, but it basically boils down to: No group rehearsals before the performance, and keeping the audience in the dark about which show is being performed right up until curtain time.

This time, the play was Zombie Prom – which took the CMTP in a direction that didn’t resonate with me, but I can certainly see why they attempted it.

Zombie Prom is an off-Broadway musical that tells the tale of two teens and their forbidden romance, as it unfolds in a small American town in the 1950’s. At first, Toffee is forced to break up with Jonny because of his bad-boy persona and disregard for authority. Things get even more untenable after Jonny commits suicide by driving into a nuclear plant, and returns – fully sentient, but nevertheless undead – to win back Toffee’s heart.

I’d never seen Zombie Prom before, and because of that, I think that the CMTP were right on the money with their decision to put it on. That might sound self-aggrandizing, but the whole point of the CMTP is to put on shows that don’t get staged much, for one reason or another. I can think of several recent productions of, say, Fiddler on the Roof or Into The Woods that have played in Toronto in the past few years. But certainly not Zombie Prom – and I really like that CMTP is giving those shows a bit of love.

To come out and say it – I don’t think it’s necessarily the best idea to put on such an ensemble-heavy show with no rehearsal. To clarify, I thought the ensemble was awesome, and can picture each of them individually several days after the show, which is really saying something. And for a group that’s never rehearsed together, their harmonies sounded really good, and they had some really strong characters.

But because nothing was planned, everyone’s individual version of “what to do while in an ensemble” kind of emerged, leaving too much of the show’s weight (and runtime) on the shoulders of talented performers who (by the nature of the script) had neither well-defined individual characters nor a clear group dynamic, and they were left to flounder.

The principals did a commendable job with their roles. Daniel Krolik brought an earnest energy to Jonny, and Jenny Weisz sang beautifully as Toffee, hitting the right balance of naiveté and tenacity.

Jenni Burke was an absolute star as Delilah Strict, playing the severe high school principal with hilarious intensity that transformed throughout her character’s journey. Some of the most entertaining moments of the show came out of Burke’s exchanges with Rich Burdett, in his role as Eddie Flagrante. Burdett adeptly embodied the trope of the seedy journalist, always on the hunt for a juicy scoop.

I’m still a big fan of the Confidential Musical Theatre Project – they’d be making a mistake not to try putting on shows like this. But I think Sunday In The Park With George, their first show, struck a few more chords with me because everyone on the stage, principal or ensemble, had something to work with in the script, something plot-driven to prepare so that the in-the-moment discoveries on stage were able to occur naturally.

Considering how many under-performed musicals there are out there, I continue to be excited to see how things go in their future shows. After all, they’re taking real risks and truly allowing their performers to play on stage – you won’t get a more genuine theatrical experience.

 

Details

  • Zombie Prom was performed on October 16th at the Victoria Chapel.
  • Find out more about the Confidential Musical Theatre Project here.

Photo of the cast provided by the company.

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