Grab Your Best Ghoul for Night of the Living Dead, The Musical at PACA
Night of the Living Dead, a show years in the making
Friday, Oct. 4
In 1968 George Romero made his big-screen debut with the shockingly bleak Night of the Living Dead. The film now toes the line between cult classic and just simply classic, with its unflinching horror and gore and unsettling commentary on race.
So it is no wonder that Night of the Living Dead — which was also adapted into a stage play that has run in Erie — is reanimating in the form of musical theater with Night of the Living Dead, The Musical, on the Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA) stage.
In case you didn't know, this is in fact the world premiere, original cast production of NOTLD, The Musical, with lyrics by Clare Higgins of Gloucester, Mass., and a score by none other than Erie County resident Steve Winstead.
"[Clare Higgins] was looking for a composer to write the score and felt like I was a good fit," Winstead, who has a degree in musical composition, said. "I agreed, and she sent me some lyrics to the feature number 'We are the Living Dead.' I wrote some music to the lyrics, put together a demo, and she loved it."
"Then," he added, "over the past four years we have been sharing ideas, writing and rewriting songs, and slowly putting together this show."
Higgins got her long-time friend Michael Murnin of Delaware on board (he was also brought on to direct), and the three developed, fine-tuned, and polished the story, which hews closely to the original film, and the music.
Winstead related, "Once we felt it was in a place we were comfortable calling 'final,' I approached Mark Tanenbaum at PACA."
Auditions took place in mid-July and rehearsal started up shortly thereafter. Erie resident Lauren Gillespie, for whom NOTLD, The Musical constitutes her stage debut as a "posse member," enthused, "PACA has really done a wonderful job putting together a great cast … and the set is going to be fantastic and include many different visual effects."
Described as a "jarringly relevant modern-day rock musical," Winstead cites classical composers like "Bach, Ravel, and Mussorgsky" as inspirations, while drawing more contemporary stimulus from bands like "Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ben Folds Five, and Silversun Pickups."
The show will have a month-long engagement during Friday and Saturday nights in October.
Winstead expressed his desire that audiences absorb the underlying social commentary of the work: "Throughout the show, there is a thread of racism that drives the conflict between two of the main characters. That theme of intolerance builds to a climax just before the finale, at which point we want the audience to see the true monsters. We close with a message of hope, that if we as a society can conquer our demons, we might be okay in the long run." — Cara Suppa
Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 26, 8 p.m. // PACA, 1505 State Street, Floor 2 // $15 // paca1505.org