Photo Flash: First Look at New Line's ZOMBIES OF PENZANCE
New Line Theatre, "the bad boy of musical theatre," opens its 28th season of adult, alternative musical theatre with the world premiere of THE ZOMBIES OF PENZANCE, Gilbert & Sullivan's newly discovered, original "operatic abomination," in its world premiere, running Sept. 27-Oct. 20, 2018 at the Marcelle Theater, in the Grand Center Arts District.
New Line Theatre has shocked the music world by discovering a controversial, long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
One of the team's best known works, The Pirates of Penzance, originally debuted in New York in 1879, and was revived to great success in the early 1980s with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and Rex Smith. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, which nobody knew about, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.
In Gilbert & Sullivan's never-before seen original draft, dated December 1878 and titled The Zombies of Penzance (with the unwieldy subtitle, At Night Come the Flesh Eaters), Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn't want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance, for obvious reasons. According to documents found with the manuscripts, Gilbert and Sullivan finished work on The Zombies of Penzance in early 1879, but their producer Richard D'Oyly-Carte refused to produce it, calling it vulgar, impolitic, and unchristian, and in one particularly pointed letter, "an operatic abomination, an obscene foray into the darkest of the occult arts." In a letter to his cousin, Gilbert expressed his deep disappointment, writing "I fear the living dead shall be the end of me yet."
Until now, music scholars had been baffled by that reference.
In 2013, New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller discovered the original manuscripts for The Zombies of Penzance in the second sub-basement of the Judson Memorial Church in New York, hidden beneath some moldy band parts from Rockabye Hamlet and Shogun the Musical, and Miller set about reconstructing the bizarre original show as G&S intended. Gilbert's living dead and their Zombie King now make their long-delayed world premiere. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan's music.
Now, for the first time, audiences will be able to see and hear the comic, flesh-eating insanity Gilbert & Sullivan originally wrought.
Most of the cast from New Line's public reading in January will return, with Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, with Mara Bollini, Kent Coffel, Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short. The show is directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez, scenic design by Rob Lippert, lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, costume design by Sarah Porter, and sound design by Ryan Day.
The Zombies of Penzance contains adult language and adult content.
New Line Theatre is a professional company dedicated to involving the people of the St. Louis region in the exploration and creation of daring, provocative, socially and politically relevant works of musical theatre. New Line was created back in 1991 at the vanguard of a new wave of nonprofit musical theatre just starting to take hold across the country. The company has given birth to several world premiere musicals over the years and has brought back to life several shows that were not well served by their original New York productions. Altogether, New Line has produced 85 musicals since 1991, and the company has been given its own entry in the Cambridge Guide to American Theatre and the annual Theater World. New Line receives funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
New Line is very proud to announce that season tickets sales have skyrocketed, with 100 subscriptions sold for the coming season, a massive 258% increase over last season!
For other information, visit New Line Theatre's full-service website at www.newlinetheatre.com. All programs are subject to change. New Line's 28th season also includes La Cage aux Folles in March, and the St. Louis premiere of the new rock musical Be More Chill in June.
Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindber
The Stanley Daughters
Sean Michael and Melissa Felps
Zachary Allen Farmer