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Undead will rise and sing as California Area High stages 'Zombie Prom'

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
California Area High School Drama Club members, from left, Rachel Ferry, Kelcie Christophe and Courtney Pro, rehearse a scene for the spring musical 'Zombie Prom.' Submitted photo
California Area High School Drama Club members, from left, Rachel Ferry, Kelcie Christophe and Courtney Pro, rehearse a scene for the spring musical 'Zombie Prom.' Submitted photo
Lacey Koster and Michael Luketich rehearse a scene for the California Area High School 2013 spring musical 'Zombie Prom.'
Lacey Koster and Michael Luketich rehearse a scene for the California Area High School 2013 spring musical 'Zombie Prom.'

When the California Area Drama Club started thinking about ideas for this year's spring musical, they knew they wanted to do something fun, fresh and different.

Eventually, they searched the musicals catalog that caters to medium-size high-school casts and found something that fit the bill: “Zombie Prom.”

The musical comedy, set in the 1960s, is a modern take on a classic love story. And, the zombies in this play aren't of the flesh-eating variety, they're “limber and thoughtful.”

Second-year musical director Claudia Bennett said “Zombie Prom” stood out to them because of its peppy singing and dancing numbers. She said it features music from the Atomic Age, sets inspired from late 1950s pop art and unique costumes.

Bennett, California Area High School's librarian who also teaches journalism and the gifted program, said the students and volunteers have been spending countless hours rehearsing.

“The most delightful outcome of producing ‘Zombie Prom' has been watching this diverse group of people bloom as they work together to realize a unique interpretation of a story that is new, and yet old,” said Bennett. “We didn't crib our production from YouTube; we let the script lead our creativity. That's magic. That's theatre.”

“Zombie Prom” is set during an atomic disaster drill at Enrico Fermi High. Transfer student Jonny Warner (junior Zac Parocai) falls in love with Toffee (senior Bianca Forsythe).

Eventually, Toffee bows to pressure from adults and breaks up with the rebel Jonny. Life grows more confusing and complex than usual after a heartbroken Jonny accidentally crashes his bicycle, causing a level-three nuclear disaster.

He returns from a deep-sea grave, reformed and ready to attend class, take his girl to the prom and graduate. Principal Miss Strict (junior Kimberly Sears) points to the student handbook, however, which forbids zombies from enrolling.

Do zombies have civil rights? Magazine reporter Eddie Flagrante (senior Ben Thomas) uncovers some interesting research on that topic.

If you attended school, you will understand the jokes. ‘Zombie Prom is almost nonstop dancing and singing,” Bennett said. “We feature a live orchestra. California sustains its reputation for quality productions featuring excellent costuming and imaginative sets and staging.”

The cast includes seniors Kelcie Christopher, Rachel Ferry, John Michael Mihalek and Courtney Pro. Underclassmen in the show are Devan Altman, Shelbe Ferry, Jake Glawinski, Lacey Koster, Gage Leavitt, Michael Luketich, Maria Martik, Vanessa Martik, Trisha Mihalek, Anthony Newman, Canyon Renner, Austin Sutch, Ryan Tirpak, Lucas Tranchita, Megan Trunzo, Nina Victoria, Josh Wohar and Liz Wohar. Hunter Watkins is technical director.

“Atomic Orchestra” musicians are California University of Pennsylvania students Mike Meketa (conductor-piano), Andrew Dunn (synthesizer), Jonathan Pezutti and Steve Ventura (guitars), Eric Tito (bass guitar), Evan Yester (drums-percussion), Nathan Milligan (saxophones), Martha Rasbridge (trumpet), Bethany Swan and Shane Urbine (trombones) and Pete Harris (auxiliary percussion).

“Zombie Prom” is based on a story by John Dempsey and Hugh Murphy. The “Atomic Edition” adaptations are by Marc Tumminelli.

Bennett said she has a devoted group of volunteers who help make the California musicals a success each year.

They include artistic directors Bill Bennett of California and Adam Sutch of Daisytown; music director and conductor Michael Meketa of Johnstown; longtime costume designer Barb Gismondi of Elco; choreographer Maria Gismondi of Pittsburgh; art designer Joseph Seaman of Scottdale; hair dressers Bobbi Hixon and Denise Cowen.; and seamstress Linda Wohar.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at

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