Parker students tap popularity of undead in 'Zombie Prom'

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Nick Crow
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JANESVILLE—Zombies are all the rage right now.

Hordes of mindless, staggering corpses roaming the Earth in TV shows and films such as “The Walking Dead” and “Night of the Living Dead” captivate audiences and draw record ratings.

With all of this terror, is there any room for fun? It seems hard to laugh when the undead are breathing down your neck.

Parker High School's production of “Zombie Prom”, which runs Friday through Sunday, Feb. 14-16, will offer a new look at zombies while telling a fun story that not a lot of people are familiar with, said director Jim Tropp.

“It's a story that's got something for everybody,” Tropp said. “It's fun, and it's very well written.”

“Zombie Prom” is set in the 1950s and tells the tale of a girl named Toffee and her boyfriend, Jonny. In the “Grease”-esque story, the couple encounter opposition to their relationship from many critics, including their school's stern principal, appropriately named Ms. Deliah Strict.

“I play the principal,” said Bri Wyss, a junior at Parker. “She's horrible to everyone. The musical appealed to me because it's almost like a spoof on '50s musicals.”

Strict disapproves of the budding romance between Toffee and Jonny and persuades Toffee to end it. Distraught, Jonny drives his motorcycle to the local nuclear power plant and hurls himself into its cooling tower.

“Toffee is like your typical girl who does what she's supposed to do,” said Emily Wagener, a Parker freshman who plays Toffee. “I tried out for her part because I like her songs and I like her character.”

Eventually, Jonny returns as a nuclear zombie to win Toffee's heart. First, though, he must contend with Ms. Strict, who has banned him from school and threatened to cancel the prom if anyone helps him.

Sensationalist reporter Eddie Flagrante is also on the scene, covering the events as they unfold.

“I'm there trying to find the scoop after Jonny becomes a zombie,” said Parker senior Tucker Topel, who plays Flagrante. “It's my last show here, and I wanted to go out with a bang.”

Topel said students have been rehearsing since January. “Zombie Prom” is Parker's second big musical this school year, coming just a few months after “Shrek the Musical” opened in November.

“It's the greatest time you'll ever watch,” Topel said. “It's more of a challenging role than I've ever had before.”

“Zombie Prom” has been on Tropp's bucket list of productions, and he thinks it's great that students are finding it a challenge.

 “I had 24 kids try out, and I cast 24,” Tropp said. “I think kids who didn't try out are going to regret it when they see this. They have been good about stepping up to the plate and working before they come in.”

The school usually stages only one big production per year, Tropp said. But after the success of “Shrek,” they decided to put another one together.

“It's a lot of work, but it's fun and rewarding at the same time,” Tropp said. “It's all about what the kids get out of it. The kids in this are the ones who really wanted to do another show.”

Last updated: 5:36 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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