A Classic Recreated

By Steve M. Opsanic

As one of the most iconic and influential independent horror films that has not only stood the test of time, but has gain wide and diverse international popularity with each passing year,  George Romero’s 1968 classic “Night Of The Living Dead” is critically acclaimed and was even selected in 1999 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The “Night Of The Living Dead” story follows seven people who, in an attempt to survive the night,  barricade themselves in a western Pennsylvania farmhouse, which is besieged by a large and growing number of “living dead” monsters.

In this revolutionary film of the period, the dead come back to life and eat the living in a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating frenzy that is ravaging the East Coast of the United States.

This past weekend a fresh and avant-garde production premiered to a sold out crowd at PACA that puts an innovative spin on a classic treasure entitled “Night Of The Living Dead The Musical”.

Directed by Michael Murnin, and saturated with rich performances, artistically created set designs, and musical compositions that are truly inspired, along with well placed comic undertones, this show does real homage to the original “Night Of The Living Dead” vision.

As this creative and well thought out production follows closely to the original storyline and script, the play opens with Barbra and Johnny played by Gracie Knopfel and Justin Moyar in the cemetery to visit their Father’s grave.

While Justin Moyar’s performance is outstanding, sadly it is short-lived as we all know that his character Johnny doesn’t survive act one. With powerful acting and phenomenal vocal offerings, Gracie Knopfel delivers a very captivating portrayal of Barbra throughout.

As one of shining stars of this production, Abdullah Washington’s very intense and gripping spot-on performance as Ben, the man who saves Barbra from the menacing ghouls and takes her into the farmhouse, driving the monsters away and barricading the doors and windows, steals the show.

As one of the principal cast members and the real hero of the story, Washington offers his audiences a very down-to-earth, creatively charming, and an intensely genuine performance throughout the entire play, that truly makes this production something special.

Michael Burns portrayal of Harry Cooper, the Husband and Father of the couple and their Daughter who sought refuge in the cellar of the old farmhouse was simply marvelous. Burns offered a passionate performance that presented a wealth of strength, realism, and artistic energy that was both charismatic and believable.

The vocal performances of Marilee Genest who took on the roll of Helen Cooper, Harry’s wife, were absolutely outstanding, and true show-stoppers, while the performance of Norah Lupher as the Cooper’s Daughter Karen was entirely tremendous and sparkled every time she stepped on stage.

Those among the very talented and sizable primary cast who certainly deserve special mention for their incredible character presentations, and who delivered amazing theatrical and musical performances includes Ryan Watt, Donald Dombrowski, Rob Karney, Dan Pruyn, and Grant T. Miller, and of course Justin Moyar who brilliantly took on an additional roll of the TV Anchor.

Offering a wonderful presentation that was creatively zombi-ish and really marvelous, was the Zombie Ensemble that included Stella Fox, Sonia Jimenez, Lisa Karney, Charlene Newport, Joel Robledo, and Paige Roward.

As a special treat, and unlike many musical productions in Erie, this show offers brilliant live music performed by cream-of-the-crop local musicians that include Tim Wickham on the Piano, Liz Alward on Drums, Dan Lucore on Lead Guitar, Graham Scott on Bass Guitar, along with Tracy Szermeta on the Synthesizer and Steve Winstead as the Conductor.

The Creative and Production Crew without whom no play could ever see its opening night is comprised of the very talented and dedicated members that include Dave Shroeder, Michael J. Murnin, TJ Laffan, Shawn Patrick Odorisio, Dan Pruyn, Marnie Foss, Annie Rosenthal, Jamie Foster, Dylyn Vyce, and of course Morgan Brundage as the Stage Manager.

Additionally, George Silkworth, Dan Young, Ken Falkenhagen, Margo Wolfe, and Brad Ford added a very talented and inventive edge to the production crew.

The indispensable Stage Crew of the production includes Sopia Karney, Natalie Gordon, Sarah McCall, Margo Wolfe, and Mark Tanenbaum as the PACA Producer.

The production also features lyrics by Clare Higgins of Gloucester, Massachusetts and musical composition by local Erie County resident, Steve Winstead.

For a quite captivating night of talent rich theatrical performances, dazzling musical presentations, and a new look at a classic story that is a guaranteed good time of the most unique kind, please make your reservations now for “Night Of The Living Dead The Musical”, a can’t miss show!

The production will run on October 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th, every Friday and Saturday evening, with doors opening at 7:30, and curtain at 8PM each night at the Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA), located at 1505 State St., Erie Pa.

Tickets are $15 and all shows are BYOB with proper ID. For more details, show information and reservations, please call 814-434-0687 or email paca1505@gmail.com, or visit the PACA Facebook Page.

Make your reservations now, as shows are selling out very quickly!

Upcoming PACA performances that you might enjoy include:

December                         Every Christmas Story Ever Told
January                            Man and Joy
February                          Last Days of Judas Iscariot
March                              How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
April                                 Closer Than Ever
May                                 How I Learned to Drive
June                                God of Carnage

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