Graveyard Shift: The American Tragedy Musical
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
August 26, 2009
There are a lot of funny moments in Graveyard Shift: The American Tragedy Musical, which tells the story of a bunch of workers at a Middle American warehouse superstore who have to defend themselves from the contagious virus that is turning the rest of the world into bloodthirsty zombies. But we've all had the situation where we, as creators of theatre, think that something is a lot funnier than everyone else does.
That struck me a lot during Graveyard Shift which, at almost two hours, is a half hour longer than it deserves to be. The score isn't very memorable, but there are a number of moments when the book is drop-dead (get it?) funny (Ren Casey wrote and directed the show). As one by one the workers are turned into zombies, they're kept, in full view of the audience, in one of the glass supermarket cases, moaning and groaning and knocking onto the window.
An opening multimedia news presentation greets us as the show begins and it's a true highlight, with a female reporter ever-smiling even as the world goes to hell behind her, and a crawl on the bottom of the screen that pokes fun at "important" news of the day (Saved by the Bell reunion postponed until cast is confirmed safe; Spider-Man, the Musical, still on for February opening since the virus reanimates dead tissue, and so forth).
Naturally, there's a love story involved, love in the face of adversity (everyone turning into zombies). The recurring gag of our hero trying to get his song out but being constantly interrupted is also a highlight, as are the numerous stunts and fights (choreographed by Nicholas J. Leinbach).
Patti Allison and Connie Jackson, as, respectively, the zombie-fighting Ruth and Sharonda, a store worker, are the strongest written and delivered performances. Some of Jackson's lines, one of which is about how black people are always the first killed in zombie movies, are outrageously funny.