Nancy Sasso Janis
So 'Dead Revolting' opens this weekend at Waterbury Arts Magnet School. If you have never heard of it, there is a reason. It is an original musical by Bruce Post, a teacher at WAMS, with music and lyrics by WAMS student MacKenzie Huneke and Rob Arbelo. Mr. Post directed the WAMS students in the company with choreography by student Eric Beltrami. Principal Lauren F. Elias served as producer.
I will admit that I honestly had no idea what to expect of this production except that it featured zombies in the cast. I did know that the students at the magnet school are never afraid of a challenge and a new show certainly qualifies as a challenge. To say I was impressed with just about every aspect of this musical would be an understatement.
The story is set in the future when the dead can be "reanimated" or brought back to life so that they can be slaves to the living. These zombies dress in Caribbean garb, have varying degrees of rotting skin and are less than thrilled to be "living" in slavery. The plot device is that they aspire to stage a zombie "revolt," as referred to in the double entendre in show's title.
Rodney is the owner of a huge Southern fungus plantation that produces foot powder; Isaac Hutchinson always commands the stage and his role as a Southern daddy was no exception. His daughter Liza, perfectly played by the adorable Alizae Powell, loves spending her father's considerable cash and his son is equally as vapid. Justin Normandin played the role of Junior with whiny precision and comedy.
Their servants are led by Rodney (played by Wilmer Gonzalez.) This young man brought his deep voice and considerable stage presence to this leading role. Another slave named Morgan is played by Adam Pierce and sophomore Nera Cambrelen played the slave Ruth. This young lady has a wonderful singing voice and great comic timing that became most apparent as she sang a solo lamenting the difficulty in maintaining any semblance of zombie beauty in the cheeky "It Takes All Day to Fix My Face." The zombiest of servants were played by Olivia Blazas as BeBe and Anna Nicole Doucette as CeCe and Tori Santiago played the blackmailing slave Trixie.
Mr. Pierce was a pleasure to watch in the leading zombie/slave role of Morgan. His wonderful singing voice brought to life his solo "It's Ruth That Speaks My Name" and he acted well the part of a slave in love with the wrong girl. Kudos to this WAMS junior on his fine performance.
The chorus included the amazing Gerald Mullins, Michael Ramalho, Julia Rocchio, Sydney Yargeau and Lucas Savage.
The clever script contains many witty references and comedic touches, as do the lyrics. The original music by Ms. Huneke and Mr. Beltrami is a mix of styles and quite impressive for composers so young. I spoke with the female half of the team at the intermission of the final dress rehearsal that I was invited to attend. I took the opportunity to tell her how impressed I was with the twenty (!) excellent compositions in the score.
The choreography by Mr. Beltrami made the 17 talented dancers in the "Zombie Dance Chorus" look very good doing some moves with a "Thriller" influence. Additional choreography was provided by Larissa Hughs, Kelsey Eggleton, Syleste Arroyo, Catherine Nichols and Kaity Voity. The costumes by Mira Hanna definitely had a Caribbean flair, with the dancers in floral rompers and the rich in costumes that reflected their status. The makeup by Sydney Kroll, Hayley Schwartz, Kimunda McLean and Emma Walsh was effective but stopped short of gory. Where else would you have a credit in the program preview that I received from the director for "body parts by Ms. Maxen's Class?" Moody lighting was designed by Annie Scheuermann to light the set by Efrain Torres.
Congratulations to the authors of this interesting show. It was generous of Mr. Post to share this original piece with his students and he should be proud of them for bringing it to life. I found it to be most innovative without being scary and the work of the WAMS students was up to their usual standard of excellence.
Remaining performances of 'Dead Revolting' are Sat. May 9 at 2pm & 7pm and Sunday May 10th at 2pm on the WAMS Apron Stage. Cost is $12 for students and $15 for adults. Tickets are available at the door.