The Dancing Dead
The spirit of Halloween is taking over UH, and it’s anyone’s guess what’s lurking in the shadows. Only one thing is certain — the brain biters and flesh eaters are coming back to life this weekend in a production of “Zombie Prom,” a musical that opened off-Broadway in 1996.
A Zombie Prom, dancing flash mob and zombie prom king and queen are all on the bill starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Alley Theatre performer and UH alum Paul Hope returns to the School of Theatre & Dance as the guest director of “Zombie Prom,” which tells a classic story of two high-school lovebirds, peer pressure, death and reanimation as a zombie due to nuclear exposure.
“It’s a fast-paced show that is very much like a 1950s pulp comic book,” Hope said in a press release. “It plays on the period’s nuclear hysteria when everyone was building bomb shelters and schools had civil defense drills. Also, it was a time when monsters in the movies were created by nuclear fallout.”
Director of the School of Theatre & Dance Steve Wallace said that the production of “Zombie Prom” being housed in the Cullen Performance Hall is not only a homecoming of sorts for the School, but attempt to reach out to the student body through proximity and to bring the Hall back into the limelight of social activities on campus.
“It’s somewhat of a return for the School of Theatre since we were housed there so many years ago,” he said. “That was the last time they performed there. Since then, Cullen Performance Hall has slowly waned as a central focus point.”
Hope said that the cast is “phenomenal” and he has had an amazing time working with them; they are hard workers, learn quickly and have done a terrific job. They began rehearsing six days a week in September and Hope says it’s all paying off.
The show has only a small amount of dialog, but the requirements for the choreography and musical demands are tremendous.
“The choreographer and the musical director have the lion’s share of the job,” he said.
Many of the music scores give a nod to the ’50s and ’60s music genres, taking on various artists that were popular during the period. He said this piece is a great opportunity for UH students because of the musical aspect.
This type of show is the next best thing to having a musical theatre program,” he said. “It’s challenging — valid training is only going to make (students) more marketable.”
He talked about the popularity of the show and said he can understand why it has become a favorite in theatres across the nation.
“This piece was handed to me,” he said. “I did not choose this one and it seemed thin at first but it’s grown on me — I love it now.”
The production of “Zombie Prom” will be held in the Cullen Performance Hall, which hasn’t been done since the last play went up in the ’80s — a production in which Hope himself was a part.
This is his second time back to UH since he received his Master of Fine Arts in Theatre. It was in his last semester of working on his master’s that he was asked to direct “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for UH just two years ago.
The show was such a huge success they asked him to come back. He cherished the experience then and said he is happy to be working at UH again on “Zombie Prom.”
At Tuesday’s rehearsal, Hope watched with excitement as the cast and the band performed together for the first time. “This cast has thoroughly amazed me,” he said. “I feel like I’ve had to do very little but get out of their way — they continually put more of themselves into every rehearsal.”
“Zombie Prom” is a musical that is appropriate for all ages. It runs about 90 minutes and will have no intermission.
“You just want it to keep on going,” Hope said. “You don’t want to break the spell.”
Before Saturday’s midnight performance, audience members are invited to get out their best zombie gear or prom attire for the actual Zombie Prom at 8 p.m. in Lynn Eusan Park next to the Cullen Performance Hall.
You can also learn a few classic moves with UH dancers just before the “Thriller” flash mob at 9:15 p.m.
Performances of “Zombie Prom” will be at 8 p.m. on Friday, Monday,Nov. 3, 4 and 5; 2 p.m. on Sunday and Nov. 6 and at midnight on Saturday.
To purchase tickets and for information, call (713) 743-2929 or visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.