Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Night of the Living Twerkers

Zombies will never die. They seem to have a cult following that inspires artists to use them as inspiration. In the latest attempt to capitalize on the zombie fad, Zombie Strippers follows a group of twentysomethings into a graveyard late at night, or super early in the morning, as they scramble from strippers turned zombies.
With a book, music, and lyrics by Mark LaPierre, Zombie Strippers is a try-to-be youthful attempt at giving zombies a fresh spin. But instead, Zombie Strippers is a mishmash of unfunny set to an electronic dance music soundtrack. The “Scooby Doo” like plot follows Tiffany, a scantly clad stripper, and her boyfriend, Playya, with two y’s, as she goes to the graveyard to pay respects to three of her fallen comrades from the strip club. Only Tiffany, who happens to be pretty dumb and lack any common sense, believes the funeral to be at 4:00am, the time when the zombies roam. As Tiffany and Playya run from her zombie friends, she stumbles into her former school pal Jinx, with a wacky secret of her own, who is hoping to have a threesome in the graveyard with breakdancing Brett and squeaky-clean Tim. With a plot so insane, you would hope that the musical was campy. Unfortunately, camp is very far and few between, making the script cringe worthy at times. Certain characters are built more for the campy nature this musical so desires, but others, primarily Jinx, are so straight that the intent of the musical becomes lost. Additionally, there are times the electronic pop score feels so out of place you have to wonder if a zombie musical was truly the right setting for this style of music.
photo courtesy of Benn Strothman
Despite the script issues, the cast was filled with some devoted actors. Ellie Bensinger and Joshua Stenseth as Tiffany and Tim, both of whom were given the most material to campify, offered some of the best moments on stage. Bensinger, looking like she stepped out from a Rock of Ages open call, was genuine and played up her character’s stupidity. Stenseth’s pure voice aided greatly to his sweet and sincere character. Ryan Farnsworth embraced Playya going all out to play the loveable douchebag. Jinx, played with conviction by Sariah, may have been the most confusing character but Sariah’s pop vocal background gave the character life.
Director Diane Englert seemed to struggle with the overall objective of the material. With such an array of variety on stage, the energy and stakes were severely lacking. The “Scooby Doo” staging was funny at first but became repetitive. But to be fair, there was only so much you can do with the basic graveyard set by Will Pike. To the production’s advantage, the choreography by Kelby Brown was fantastic. When you die and turn into a zombie, you apparently also develop killer break dancing and twerking skills and Brown’s zombie trio were pros at it. Brown’s mix of zombie and dance were a cohesive blend.
Musical theater is changing. With new advances and trends, new musical styles will inevitably develop. But if there is one thing that should quickly be removed from the equation, it’s zombies. Zombies and musical theater are just not a good mix. And unfortunately Zombie Strippers is just another failed attempt at being current.