My Boyfriend is a Zombie
nytheatre.com review by Rachel Grundy
June 4, 2010
This '50s throwback musical is like Grease and The Rocky Horror Picture Show got together and had a love child. A fun and quirky take on the boy-meets-girl classic, My Boyfriend is a Zombie could be a real cult hit.
The show starts in a familiar place—a teenage girl's bedroom during a sleepover—but a narrator, in the form of Verna Hampton's Zombette, introduces the action. Hampton plays multiple characters during the show, including the school principal, and lends a ghoulish glee to the proceedings with her characterful alto voice. The girls at the sleepover each have their own stereotypes, but each makes their mark on the production with strong character choices, and all have fantastic voices. As Paula Pearlstone, Nicole Patullo brings a naive, confused quality to the leading lady—seemingly terrified of the zombie that shows up under her window to serenade her, yet managing to decide he is the one for her within a few short encounters. This is not unusual in a musical, but I didn't feel that there was enough dialogue to explain her sudden change of heart. If the songs had more storyline in them, it might not be a problem, but I didn't feel the balance was quite there yet. However, the music is toe-tappingly fun and pretty authentic to its 1950s roots, and the live band adds a fantastic atmosphere to the whole performance.
The cast works seamlessly as an ensemble, playing their individual characters as well as the backing chorus to solo songs, and works together if a minor glitch occurs (my favorite was the inflatable bed in Paula's room that kept trying to throw her off every time another character stood up; Patullo and the others kept focus with admirable style despite the best attempts of the scenery). A trio of high-school guys (Jeremy Lardieri, Lenin Alevante, and Matthew Hooper) are endearingly funny and gave me some genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
Although this is very much an ensemble show, credit must go to Macah Coates as Tina, who is worldly, sensual, and sarcastic and delivers her solo song with a bluesy brilliance; Erin Salm as Zelda, who plays the goody-two-shoes class president with a Molly Shannon-esque level of deadpan and physical comedy; and Jamaal Kendall as Grrr, the lovestruck zombie. Although he never says a word, he steals every scene he is in with extraordinary physical comedy, emotive zombie groans, and breathtaking dancing. Kendall delivers a show-stopping tap solo at the high school prom that demonstrates his incredible talent.
The staging is simply created with a few set pieces, but the walls of the stage are decorated with old records, which are also suspended from the ceiling and often catch the light as they twirl around. The only fixed scenery is a fantastic pair of oversized hands that stands in front of the band and cleverly separates them from the main stage. The makeup and costumes (by Kate Tsang and Tilly Grimes), particularly for the zombies, are really effective and tread the right line between ghoulish and slightly ludicrous.
The show concludes as all good musicals should—the zombie gets the girl, and everyone lives happily ever after. I left the theatre smiling, and I hope this show continues to develop and grow into its full potential. Rocky Horror, watch out.