Sunday, March 9, 2014

REVIEW: OCT's Musical "Zombie in Love" Alive with Deadpan Humor


Oregon Children’s Theatre presents "Zombie in Love," a world premiere musical running now through March 23.

"Don’t let the title keep you awake at night. This charming musical follows Mortimer, a lonely zombie dying to find true love. He tried the gym, but his arm kept falling off. He offered his actual heart to the mail carrier, but she ran away screaming. Now he’s taken out an ad and pinned his hopes on the annual Cupid’s Ball. Will the girl of his dreams be waiting for him by the punch bowl? It’s not easy being a brain-eating, graveyard-walking, bleeding-heart romantic, but this sweet story will make you believe in love after life. Clever tunes and monster mash moves will delight audiences of all ages."

OCT is committed to commissioning and producing at least one new script each year. "Zombie in Love" which marks the tenth original script to be premiered by OCT is adapted from the original book by Kelly Di Pucchio with pictures by Scott Campbell. Book and lyrics by Michelle Elliot with music by Danny Larsen.

The En-shamble

The ensemble of OCT's "Zombie in Love"
The cast features Blake Peebles as Mortimer; Madison Wray as Mildred; Javon Carter as Rodney; and Madeleine Delaplane, Nate Golden, Thom Hilton, Lindsey Koehler, and Madison Thompson in the ensemble. 

Performances were all generally good. The cast did well with the slightly under par material. The show has it's moments lyrically (it is about 80% sung through), but the writing (musically and lyrically) was no Rogers and Hammerstien (or Rice and Menken, or Swartz for that matter). It reminded me of a typical, amateur church musical, but only because of the material.

Blake Peebles as Mortimer
Blake Peebles was amusing and he seems a strong comic actor. His physicality in this role was perfect. He sang well enough, but doesn't really have a striking voice. Madison Wray was also quite humorous and, while her physicality wasn't as strong, her voice is none-the-less awesome. She gave a striking performance over all and comes out as the number one actor of the show. Javon Carter was adequate, but did not seem to fully invest himself.

The true standouts from the show came from the chorus. Madeleine Delaplane dialed in a fine performance, shining particularly in the bit, secondary role as a teacher. Madison Thompson also stood out among the chorus because she seemed to put so much energy into the role and for her truly magnificent voice.

Alone in adjacent closets two misfits discover one another.
The creative team includes Marcella Crowson (Director and Co-Scenic Design), Darcy White (Musical Director), Chris Rousseau (Co-Scenic Design), Emily Horton (Costume Design), Mark LaPierre (Lighting Design), Cecil Averett (Sound Design), Sara Mishler Martins (Choreographer), and Drew Dannhorn (Props Master).

A Heartfelt Production

The set, as you can see from the photos was charming. Set changes were smooth and interesting as the three primary set pieces were designed for multiple use with some very creative morphing. Stunning, really. The lighting, too, was colorful, interesting, and and perfectly designed. Costumes and makeup were top notch as were the few comic effects.

At the Cupid's Ball it all starts to gel.
The dances were nicely choreo-graphed though not as tightly executed as it could have been.

As stated, I didn't find the musical numbers to be extremely compelling though some of the lyrics were amusing and I did particularly like the spoof number If You Like. There are fifteen songs in all in the 75 minute production.

This musical will appeal to children and the message of "there's someone for everyone" is an important one. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

True Love at last.
Dates: March 1-23, 2014. Times: Saturdays at 2 and 5 p.m. and Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and 2 p.m. Location: Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland, Ore. Tickets: $18 and $28 for adults and $15 and $24 for children (group rates also available). Box Office: 503-228-9571 or TicketMaster (503-790-ARTS or On the web:

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
All photos, by Owen Carey, provided.

For another perspective by Dennis Sparks, click here.

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