Upper School Musical Zombie Prom Brings Undead to Life

The students of Enrico Fermi High have all the typical teen concerns: classes, after-school activities, who’s dating whom, and, of course, zombies. In the Nonesuch Players’ recent production of Zombie Prom, mounted at Regis College’s performing arts center, those topics were animated (or reanimated) with color, style, energy, razzle-dazzle song and dance, and copious quantities of ghoulish humor.
Zombie Prom is an off-Broadway musical by Dana Rowe and John Dempsey. Set in the 1950s, it embraces and satirizes the conventions of the era, as good-girl heroine Toffee falls for rebel Jonny. When, facing pressure from her family, they break up, Jonny hurls himself into a nuclear power plant. But he soon returns as the undead, green and tattered and draped in seaweed but otherwise none the worse for wear. Things take a dark turn when strict principal Miss Strict bans zombies from school. In the end, however, love triumphs, and, true to the genre, Toffee and Jonny are crowned prom king and queen while classmates cheer. Zombie jokes abound, as do more serious themes of bias and rebellion against authority. “This is a high school. This is not a democracy,” declares principal Strict as students demand equal rights for zombies; the line brought a smile to the face of Head of School Ned Parsons, seated in the audience.

The score features show-stopping big numbers (“Enrico Fermi High”) and tender ballads (“The Voice in the Ocean”). Seniors Caleb Leeming and Natalie Hall took on the challenging lead roles of Jonny and Toffee with aplomb. Maggie Monaghan ’19 did a comic turn as Miss Strict, who eventually finds love with tabloid reporter Eddie Flagrante, played by Josh Rocha ’21. Dozens of students completed the cast, with the thespian and terpsichorean talents of the Rivers community on full display. Others worked behind the scenes as stage crew or members of the makeup team; students served in key roles as choreographer, stage manager, and more.

“The experience of working on this production of Zombie Prom here at Rivers has just been amazing,” said director Daniel Bolton, who was making his debut as director of the Upper School musical. “The commitment of our cast over the four months of rehearsal, coupled with the assistance and cooperative effort of Rivers faculty and staff from a variety of departments, truly made this a team effort. Simply stated, I was blessed with one of the best casts with whom I have had the pleasure to work. Our student cast brought an incredible amount of talent and creativity to this process and, from the start, they embraced the zany, far-out elements of the show.”

Bolton continued, “I was drawn to the material of the show for a variety of reasons. The rock music is dynamic and challenging, the book and lyrics are whip-smart and witty, and the variety of characters gave us a lot to work with. Within days of the start of our rehearsals, back in November, I knew that our cast would nail it, and I am so proud of the professionalism and skill they bring to our stage.”