If you live (or die) for The Walking Dead, if spoofs are your thing, Punchline Theatre Company’s The Rocking Dead just may be the kind of scrappy musical that gets you laughing while it’s trying to curdle your blood.
Artistic director Gabriel Hammad and his Punchline crew have set up shop in the little Black Box Theatre upstairs at the Coral Spring Center for the Arts, where they plan to present a season of comedies, musicals and short plays with wit and bite. The Rocking Dead, subtitled “a zombie musical,” certainly has loads of the latter.
Hammad is the show’s director, its clever lyricist and book writer. His Los Angeles-based collaborator Barrett Shuler composed the catchy, varied songs. The cast is full of young talent with various levels of experience, but Hammad manages to blend his singer-actors into an effective ensemble, only some of which is undead at any given time.
The story fits comfortably into the horror-spoof-zombie genre. The Rocking Dead, a contentious band full of prima donnas, finds itself stranded in a remote Georgia cabin just as the town folk seem to be fighting an epidemic of “rabies.” The cabin is primitive — meaning spotty Wi-Fi or cell service (the horror!) — except that communication is possible every once in a while. Like if bass player Boom (Persi Caputo) stands on a chair and has lead singer Anya (Jen Chia) and tour manager Amy (Raquel Montesino) grab her boobs so she can get a signal. Yeah, Rocking Dead trades in that kind of humor.
Only some of the band members seem to notice that Lyra (Vickie Anderson), their opening act, has stopped talking, is covered in blood, and sports a lean-and-hungry look. Musician D.J. (Daniel Lemache) has a monster crush on Anya, the diva lead singer, and she digs him too, but bickering is the way they communicate. Anya’s mom Regina (Devin Iovelli) is the band’s mean manager who barks orders via Skype (the actor’s bewigged, lipsticked mug is projected on the back wall); Iovelli also plays Victor, host of a cable access show and a major fan of hottie Boom.
The local sheriff, a redneck hunk named Rick (Daniel Kies), arrives to warn the band of the zombies in them thar woods, one of whom is his newly undead buddy Carl (Kurtis Huntsinger). The conservative Rick and liberal Amy get into it, then get into each other before Rick meets an untimely end. But in the zombie world, is anyone ever really dead?
Like any world premiere by a young company, The Rocking Dead has elements of the good, the bad and the (deliberately) ugly about it. What’s good and promising is the music, Hammad and Shuler teaming on songs that serve the story, hit the right notes musically and lyrically, are arranged well and fit the rocking voices of the cast. Montesino, one of the best singers in the cast, doubles as musical director.
The book isn’t nearly the equal of the music. It’s silly, deliberately so, and too rambling. A voiceover cautions the audience that the show is rated “TV-MA,” so don’t be surprised at the sexual content, locker room humor, profanity, gunfire and so on. Some of the young performers wander a little off key. Others shout their lines, which really doesn’t seem necessary since they’re all wearing mics.
Still, give Punchline props for doing something fresh; for blending music, theater and video; for finding the ho-ho-ho in horror. Do watch your back if you go to the show, though. That rustling just behind you might be a zombie looking for his next meal.
If you go
What: ‘The Rocking Dead’ by Gabriel Hammad and Barrett Shuler.
Where: Punchline Theatre Company production at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Dr., Coral Springs.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 1.
Information: 954-344-5990 or www.coralspringscenterforthearts.com.