Monday, November 30, 2015         

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ACT's 'Zombie Prom' is nostalgic enjoyment

By John Berger


Fast, funny and timely on several levels, Army Community Theatre's Hawaii premiere production of "Zombie Prom" is perfect Halloween season entertainment. Yes, there is a message -- be nice to people who are different from you -- but the primary emphasis is on '50s nostalgia, romance and lighthearted fun.

Kyle Malis stars as Jonny Warner, a teenage outcast who commits suicide in a nuclear power plant but returns to school three weeks later as a zombie determined to turn his undead life around, earn his diploma and take his grieving ex-girlfriend to the senior prom. Madison Eror (Toffee) is the central figure in much of the action as the "good girl" who decides after much soul searching that her parents are wrong and that true love really is "forever" and not just "till death do us part."

Take it as a quirky variation of the basic modern romantic comedy and enjoy the premise, the music and the superb cast.

Suzanne Green, unrecognizable beneath a Greg Howell wig, gives a career-best performance as Miss Delilah Strict, the dictatorial principal who tells Jonny that zombies are not allowed at Enrico Fermi High School -- and then warns the students she will cancel the senior prom if he shows up there. The role is a good one -- part martinet, part dominatrix -- and Green embraces it with zest.


» Where: Army Community Theatre, Fort Shafter

» When: Through Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays

» Cost: $15-$20

» Info: 438-4480 or

Green has a talented male co-star in Justin Clemente as Eddie Flagrante, a trash tabloid journalist for whom the saga of a persecuted real-life teenage nuclear zombie means a huge boost in circulation. Green and Clemente share a big song-and-dance number that is one of the over-the-top comic highlights in the show.

Scott Lewis (Josh) stands out among the student body visually on account of his bulk but also for the fine-tuned comic presence he brings to the role of the would-be reporter who notifies Flagrante of Jonny's undead presence on campus. Lewis is a key player in one big number and has pivotal moments in several others.

Krysten Kaneshiro (Candy) and Kyla Anderson (Coco) have major supporting roles as Toffee's best friends who try without success to persuade her that three weeks is more than enough time to spend in mourning. Jana Souza (Ginger) builds on her scene-stealing performance as Sharpay in ACT's "High School Musical 2" with her work here as the school "goody-two-shoes kiss-up."

"Zombie Prom" gives the cast good solid material to work with. The dialogue is rich in one-liners and PG-13-level double-entendres, but the romantic angle works well, too.

Musical director Daren Kimura and his musicians do an excellent job with Dana P. Rowe's demanding score, and sound designer Jason Taglianetti ensures that Eror's voice can be heard clearly and cleanly on even the most demanding numbers.

Natalie Jolly Uehara enhances the visual side of the production by filling the stage with expansive, expressive choreography. Yes, some of the moves clone the now-classic choreography seen in Michael Jackson's iconic 1983 "Thriller" video, but much more of the show does not, and the cast's execution makes the big song-and-dance numbers entertaining rather than filler. For instance, "That's the Beat for Me" is memorable not only for Clemente's performance as the featured vocalist, but also for the way Kameryn Behrend, Shawna Gobble and Kami Wakabayashi "dance" while being pushed around the stage in office chairs.

All things considered, ACT's "Zombie Prom" is funnier and more entertaining than ACT's productions of "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2" -- and almost as realistic as the two Disney teen fantasies.

Count it as good clean comic fun for older children, teens and adults alike. Two rotting radioactive thumbs up for "Zombie Prom" at ACT!

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