For some, being stuck indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic could feel like holing up from a zombie apocalypse.
Clare Higgins, communications manager of seARTS in Gloucester, certainly understands. That's why she's hoping to bring her musical adaptation of George Romero's classic 1968 film, "Night of the Living Dead" to those at home.
Higgins wrote the book and lyrics for the musical, and it was picked up by Phantasmagoria, a theater company based out in Lewes, Delaware. The show's first run was held in the fall of 2019 at the PACA Theater in Erie, Pennsylvania.
"I’ve long been a fan of musicals like 'Rocky Horror' and 'Little Shop of Horrors' and wanted to create a work of my own in that genre," she explained. "I chose 'Night of the Living Dead' not only because of the current popularity of zombies, but because it offered me the chance to deepen the story and make it address today’s urgent issues of racism and violence.
Contemporary critics have cited "Night of the Living Dead" as a groundbreaking film for its portrayal of race on screen. It was one of the first horror films to feature an African American protagonist. Its release also coincided with the tail-end of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Phantasmagoria's "Night of the Living Dead" reportedly dives deeper into the racial themes of its source material.
"Our creation deepens the original story by exploring racial tension between the African-American hero and his bigoted antagonists," reads the production's promotional material. "We hope to add our voices to the Black Lives Matter narrative in a meaningful way. Ultimately, in an ironic twist, the fearsome zombies reveal who the real monsters in society are. We give the audience a lot of fright, a lot of fun, and a lot to think about."
The company hopes to organize a cast reading of the musical over Zoom sometime in the near future.
"This reading is in the planning and casting stage," explained Higgins, "so we don’t have a definite release date yet, but we hope it will be some time in 2021."
Robert Newton, owner of Cape Ann Community Cinema and a friend of Higgins, said he's looking to produce a film adaptation of the musical.
"We have monthly meetings about it and we're just at the point where we're about to put things down on paper," he explained. "I hoping to have it filmed in Salem."
Phantasmagoria hopes "Night of the Living Dead" will hit Broadway someday. In order to do so, they'll need sponsors. Donations are being accepted via http://bit.ly/LIVINGDEAD. Funds will also be used to produce the upcoming online reading.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or email@example.com.