Area stages are frightfully entertaining
BY MISHA DAVENPORT For Sun-Times Media October 10, 2013 6:17PM
Jenn G. Ambatese (left) as Elphaba and Alison Luff as Glinda in the national touring production of “Wicked.”
If you crossed “Oklahoma” with reanimated corpses, you might just end up with “Musical of the Living Dead.”
The Cowardly Scarecrow Theatre Company’s Halloween favorite, now in its fourth season, is running through Nov. 9 at the Stage 773 theater.
“It’s definitely more entertaining that your cheesy, run-of-the-mill haunted house in some church basement,” says Marc Lewallen, who co-authored both the book and lyrics of the show with Brad Younts.
A lover of both stage musicals and zombie flicks, Lewallen says both of those genres first collided when he was 15.
“I first saw George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ when I was 15 and that was also around the time I was in my high school production of ‘Oklahoma,” he says. “While I didn’t make the connection at the time –that would come later—there can be almost a sort of campiness to both stage musicals and zombie films and our show explores that.”
The plot of the popular musical has 10 survivors of a zombie apocalypse seek refuge (and the occasional ballad) while trapped in a farm house.
“Musical of the Living Dead” is part of a growing sub-genre of theater fare being presented each Halloween. Considering last year Americans spent more than $8 billion on costumes, candy, decorations and other Halloween-themed items, it’s perhaps no surprise that theater companies are now starting to actively seek out Halloween-themed shows. Other spooky properties popular this time of year have included “Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Evil Dead: The Musical” and “The Rocky Horror Show.”
“The average Halloween aficionado is not going to be the usual theatergoer and there hasn’t been a lot of material catered to them,”Lewallen says. “As the holiday and theater continue to develop, you will see it more.”
It isn’t just about putting on a show that has copious amounts of blood. Although “Musical of the Dead” certain has that going for it. In addition to a parody of “One Day More” (from “Les Miserables”), the show also features a popular front-row attraction.
“Ah, yes. The splatter zone,” Lewallen says with a chuckle. “People come dressed in all white just to sit in the first couple of rows to get soaked with stage blood. It’s a big draw.”
Some of the other frighteningly theatrical fare to take in this Halloween season:
“The Rocky Horror Show,” Richard O’Brien’s love letter to B-movies, is the Halloween equivalent to “A Christmas Carol.” This year is no different with countless film screenings. Why not see it live, though? pH Comedy Theater presents the show live Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 16 at their performance space at 1515 W. Berwyn. Tickets, $15-$20. Special Halloween show, too. Call (773) 961-8214; www.whatisph.com.
If you are still looking to do the “Time Warp” again, Underscore Theatre is also staging “The Rocky Horror Show” Oct. 24-Oct. 26 at 9 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Chopin Theatre at 1543 W. Division. Tickets, $20; www.chicagorocky.com.
Clock Productions’ “Scary Tales 2013” features short tales of suspense, terror and laughter and includes “A Tale of Ghosts, and “A Tale of the Medusa” among others. Performances at the National Pastime Theater (Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence, 4th Floor) are Oct.15-16, Oct. 22-23, and Oct. 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct.20, 27 and Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. Tickets, $15. Call (773) 327-7077.
For kids five and up, Lifeline Theatre’s newest family musical, “Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat” is being presented in conjunction with the national publication of the book of the same name by Doreen Cronin. The family-friendly show follows Duck, Pig and Cow as they try to outsmart Farmer Brown to throw the ultimate Halloween party complete with apple-bobbing, a costume contest and, of course, candy. The show runs Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Oct. 19-Nov. 24 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood. Tickets, $15. Call (773) 761-4477; lifelinetheatre.com.
The grounds of the Morton Arboretum are the stage for the chilling “The Passion of Dracula.” Performances 3 p.m. weekends through Oct. 27. The show starts at the Thornhill Shelter (Parking Lot 21), Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle. Tickets, $8-$19. Call (630) 725-2066; mortonarb.org.
The Cornservatory’s fifth iteration of their popular Halloween show “Nightmares on Lincoln Ave.” takes humorous aim at B-movies and is entitled “B is for Blood.” 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Oct. 31 at the Cornservatory, 4210 N Lincoln Tickets, $7-$15. Call (773)-650-1331; cornservatory.org.
“Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque,” Gorilla Tango’s 18-and-over homage to AMC’s hit zombie show “The Walking Dead” runs 11:59 p.m. Fridays through Dec. 27 and 10:30 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 26 at the Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave. Special 9 p.m. performance on Halloween. Tickets to all performances, $35. Call (773) 598-4549; gorillatango.com.
In First Folio’s interactive Halloween experience, “Searching for Peabody’s Tomb,” the ghostly butler of the historic Mayslake guides you through every dark nook and cranny of the mansion in search of the spirit of F.S. Peabody, the millionaire coal baron who built the place in 1921. Recommended for 12 and up. First Folio Theatre at Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve, 1717 W 31st St., Oakbrook. Wednesdays-Sundays every half-hour 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Special Oct. 31 show every 30 minutes 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Tickets, $10. Call (630) 986-8067; firstfolio.org.
Mentalist Sidney Friedman displays his telepathic talents in “Halloween Mind Shivers” 8 p.m. Oct. 25-Oct. 27 and 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret, 1383 N. Milwaukee. Tickets, $20 +two drink minimum. Call (773) 278-1830; davenportspianobar.comAnd just in time for Halloween, the witches of Oz will be back to defy gravity in the blockbuster musical “Wicked.” The show runs Oct. 30-Dec . 21 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Tickets, $37-$107. Call (800) 775-2000; BroadwayInChicago.com.
Misha Davenport is a Chicago-based freelance writer.