Thursday, October 21, 2010

In the Big City: The Zombie Opera

Alright kids, we all know about my penchant for horror movies, and my recent zombie-esque cemetery shufflings.  So, when Boring Pittsburgh publicized the upcoming show Evenings in Quarentine: The Zombie Opera, I thought "Holy Brains, I HAVE to go to that!".  I debated and debated, and saw show after show selling out.  Then, they announced they were adding an additional show, and I decided, that is IT, I am going.  I bought my ticket straight away, and good thing, because that show sold out in 18 hours.

Last night, it was time for the show.  I purposely avoided reading too much about the show, so as to go in a complete novice.  I got there about an hour before the show started, and already, people were waiting in line for walk in tickets.  This show already has quite a cult following.

Like a complete and total dork, I was first in line to get in, and when the doors opened, I got the first seat, front and center.  How else could I write an accurate review.

The show had amazing programs, with a truncated synopsis marked Classified By Order of The US Government, so I only knew what to expect from Act 1.  Basically, the premise is, it is modern day Pittsburgh, and zombies have invaded the city.  Safe zones have been set up, and are being monitored by the military, but in Oakland, the zone broke down.  Ronnie and Izzie, the two lead characters, are trying to reunite with family members, with the help of their friend Charles.  Along the way, Charles gets bitten, the fate of the trio is in question for the remainder of the show.

As the show was getting ready to start there was an announcement about prop gunfire, and that the show may not be suitable for those under 13.  Then, well, then things got rolling.  We have the Prelude, then we are introduced to Ronnie, then Izzie, with the first song.  The next interlude involved the multimedia aspect of the show, which I loved.  Not only was there the live acting, there was prerecorded bits projected behind it, and the two media interacted with each other, it was so clever, and a great way of making a production for a small space feel so much larger.  The interlude was a news broadcast by the fictional Channel 8 news, one of several throughout the night, showing scenes of zombie debauchery all over the city.  I had to admit, I chuckled thinking, yeah, zombies are about the only thing driving people into PNC park these days.  There was a lot of humor, and a little bit of camp, sprinkled throughout the songs.  We then have few more musical interludes that progress the plot, I am not going to go into detail for all of them, or I will be blathering on for DAYS!  My only complaint was that one of the numbers, Last Call, was really hard to hear, and that was from the front row, so I can imagine the back row was straining.

I do want to note the song Red and the White.  This describes the military involvement in the protection of citizens.  It was quite a political piece, and reminded me of the classic style of old horror films echoing the political climate.  (Don't believe me?  Watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original.  Best commentary on the Cold War ever.).  I also loved that this was a piece that played out on screen, using a lot of talented extras, and some cool split screen and collage screen effects.  Act 1 concluded with a musical highlight, a solo by Charles which had me forgetting I was not in a Broadway theater, both in terms of the quality and the composition, entitled I've Been Bitten.

At this point there was an intermission, where they offered us refreshments including zombie cookies,

and little pamphlets about living with the undead.

I took the opportunity to buy a t shirt and some raffle tickets (crosses fingers).  I do want to mention that during the first act and intermission, there was an issue with an audience member who had passed out.  I was most impressed with the caring, concern, and professionality of the Greybox theater staff and crew of the show in dealing with the situation.  The party was sitting near me, and the theater manager was fantastic with them.  She even had to deal with a ridiculously inappropriate audience member not related to the party making loud, inappropriate statements, and she remained calm and professional the whole time, putting the man's health her first concern.  Eventually, paramedics helped the man out of the theater, and with a wave the man assured us, to our applause, he was fine, and that the show must go on.  So it did.  But well done Greybox staff!

Act 2 started with another news broadcast, then moved into another musical highlight with Evenings in Quarentine.  There were several musical numbers that flowed one from another, but one that really touched me was Shadow.  In the remainder of the show, the music and themes took a much more somber tone, and at one point, I had chills and very very wet eyes.  The finale was simply fantastic.

I have to say, the voices of Bonnie Bogovich (Ronnie) and Elizabeth Rishel (Izzie) were amazing and so complementary.  While Elizabeth seemed to have the more operatic voice, Bonnie had a heartfeltness that really touched me.  And as I mentioned, Drew Fogle (Charles) had a real show stopper at the end of Act 1.  The quality of the music for the show was fantastic, the use of musical themes was well balanced with storytelling solo pieces.  I hope they record this, because I would buy this CD, and I would bet the majority of the other audience members would as well.  The extras were wonderful as well, with many playing multiple roles.  And of course, the prerecorded aspect really blew me away.

This may be the highlight of the Halloween season for me.  And considering I went to Crazy Scary, have been watching ridiculous B horror films like they are going out of style, been plotting how to dress up our pets, and have bought no less than 5 potential Halloween costumes this year, with a potential for a total of 4 parties to wear them too, that is saying a lot ya'll.

I see big things possible for this show, and its appeal could spread far beyond the borders of the city of its birth.  And sincerely, I hope for big big national exposure and success for the show.  But there is something sweetly satisfying about having seen the show in its first year, in its home town, in the Greybox theater, with the PAT buses outside, and Iron City being served all around me.  Long live Pittsburgh, and her undead.