High school sweethearts, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and nuclear zombies.
All of the above can be found in the Cullen Performance Hall in the School of Theatre & Dance’s production of “Zombie Prom”.
Directed by UH alum Paul Hope, the musical was nothing short of an explosive success. Actors Melanie Ernestina, Philip Orazio, Jenna Simmons and took the leads as Mrs. Strict, Jonny Warner and Toffee respectively in an interesting turn on a classic love story.
Set in the 1950s, things go awry for lovebirds Jonny and Toffee after her parents and Mrs. Strict persuade her to break up with her misunderstood boyfriend, whom they see as a rebel without a cause. In an act of misguided passion, Jonny turns to suicide and crashes his motorcycle into the nuclear power plant — and comes back as a nuclear zombie.
Mayhem ensues after Jonny returns to his high school in search of his lady love, Toffee, with the hopes of winning back her heart and taking her to the prom. That is, of course, if he can get past the rules and regulations of an unwilling Mrs. Strict.
Both Orazio and Simmons did a brilliant job in their performances as high school lovers, torn apart by peer pressure, an unwelcoming principal and, of course, death.
As Mrs. Strict, Melanie Ernestina stayed true to her character’s totalitarian ruling style, but developed her character into a memorable, believable antagonist in the show. She kept energy levels high throughout the show with a voice that was full of soul — an aspect of the show that added a sassy appeal to her attitude-driven character.
Halfway through the play, Andrew Garrett made his entrance as a hard-hitting journalist for Exposé magazine. Clad in a tweed suit with suspenders and a tie, Garrett brought to life Eddie Flagrante, the first character in the play to join Toffee in her defense of Jonny. He also added 1950s-style sultry humor to the production through musical numbers with a voice heavy in bass — and a comb over to match.
Also deserving credit is Christine Arnold, who took the stage as Candy. Full of energy, bright facial expressions and a voice straight from Broadway, Arnold was easily one of the most enjoyable cast members to see on stage.
Choreographer Rob Flebbe had the characters using the whole stage for twirling, spinning and endless amounts of jazz hands. All cast members did an excellent job with stage movement — not a single beat was missed throughout the entire performance.
Costumes and lighting were both on-point and true to the time period in which the musical is set. In all, the musical was nothing short of a delight to see. It was playful, innocent and is a humorous take on a high school love story and the nuclear scare of the 1950s.
It is certainly a production that shouldn’t be missed. Remaining performances will be held on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call the box office at (713) 743-2929 or visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.