Third time still a charm for 'Living Dead' musical

By Lorraine Wardle

The dead have returned. But don’t worry, they are hilarious.

The revival of “Living Dead: The Musical,” a musical parody of popular zombie films, opened at The Rust Belt Theater Company on Friday night to a very appreciative audience.

Now in its third reincarnation, “Living Dead: The Musical” is written by Robert Dennick Joki, with music by Joki and Josh Taylor. The production is full of Joki’s signature style and wit.

This year’s production includes two new songs, the satirical “I’ll Bet Things are Beautiful in Youngstown, Ohio” and “Disaster Nudity Can Be a Girl’s Best Friend.”

The plot loosely follows that of George A. Romero’s original zombie flick “Night of the Living Dead.” A group of strangers find themselves trapped in a house, surrounded by the undead. But Joki and his amazing cast have turned this classic horror story on its head.

Nicole Zayas sets the tone for the evening as an enticing Elvira, inviting the audience into a “Midnight Moonlight Movie Show.” As Ben, Kage Coven is the stand-out hero of the story, fighting zombies, saving the day and singing “I Got Yo Black.”

Rust Belt newcomer Anna Stanford was perfect as the comically clueless Barbara. You’re never sure if she is in shock or simply deranged, but Stanford’s great voice and facial expressions create a kooky character. David Cirelli plays her brother Johnny with a playful demeanor and an excellent singing voice.

As young couple Tom and Judy, Joshua Fleming and Marisa Zamary are both awesome singers with great stage presence and comic timing. Zamary impressed in her many musical numbers including the soulful “Slutty Girl” and the humorous “Disaster Nudity.” Fleming’s “Gabriel’s Horn” brought down the house.

Eric Lewis played the harsh father, Harry, who longed for the past in “1968.” Celena Coven was his meek wife, Helen, and Grace Offerdahl played their daughter, Karen. The two women shared a powerful duet with “Are Monsters Real?”

Nick Lyras gave an impressive surprise performance as the mysterious stranger, singing “I Think I’m In the Wrong Musical.”

Rounding out the cast were Hunter Thomas and Rachel Clifford as newscasters and a chorus of versatile zombies.

The zombie chorus came and went, changing characters every time, creating a sort of macabre, comedic variety show where you never know what zombies will show up.

“Living Dead: The Musical” is full of adult language and themes, and is recommended for theatergoers age 16 and older.

“Living Dead: The Musical” continues Friday, Saturday, Oct., 31 and Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. with additional risqu midnight performances Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at The Rust Belt Theater Company, located in the Calvin Center, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown. For reservations, call or text 330-507-2358.

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