Music & Lyrics: Scott Free. Book: Brian Kirst. Directed by: Dan Foss
At: Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. Tickets: ZombieBathhouse.net; $20. Runs through: Oct. 29
Just in time for Tricks or Treats comes Zombie Bathhouse: A Rock Musical at the Center on Halsteda tale of love, identity and flesh-eating set in a gay bathhouse.
The show starts off with a pitchy production number called "Happy Dread." Unfortunately, the earnest cast members doesn't seem to blend well together or can't hear themselves. The main character, Michael, played believably by North Rory Homeward, is a smoking, horror film-loving, negative downer who is hired as a DJ for the bathhouse. Why his fun-loving friends Jason ( Marc Prince ) and Freddy ( Derek Riensi Van Tassel ) like him or why a guy ( Michael Cadville ) has a crush on him we're not quite sure. Luckily, as the show goes along and he falls in love with a Zombie named Ash ( Dennis Frymire ), he gets more appealing. Yes, these characters are named after horror-film icons.
"Key to Their Happiness," a song about love sung by the bathhouse attendant Vinnie ( played by Adam E. Hoak ), was charming. Dennis Frymire, as Ash, is hunky and does a good acting job as the spiritual zombie/love interest but he doesn't have the rock pipes to pull off the songs. One of the best is "Man Meat," a hilarious song comparing how zombies feel about eating flesh and how gay men feel about flesh for sex.
Other songs were performed solidly as well. In the second act, the song "Alone Together" explores how introverts can negotiate being in love and being aloneand Cadville and Homeward do a great job with it. "Save the Earth Kill a Human" is a funny insight about how the earth might be better off without humans. And "I Love my Gun," sung by Melissa Van Kersen ( Doris, Michael's ultra-supportive mother ), is charming and disturbing.
Other performances worth mentioning include Shamus Jarvis' animalistic zombie Scrimm, who steals his moments and campy Van Gerard Garcia Jr., who throws shade for laughs. Riensi Van Tassel, as Freddy, and Taylor Raye, as an LGBT historian, both have great stage presence.
The songs in this show, by Scott Free, have very clever lyrics/themes and are worth a second hearingeven if the cast doesn't always live up to the score. This show gets more laughs and is more engaging as it goes along. There's an interesting theme on why horror films are appealing to a LGBT audience because they are about outsiders. There is little gore or horror here and that is not really the point. The treat here is really the songs.