James Valcq's Zombies from the Beyond is a campy little musical filled with sex-starved characters who tell penis jokes while saving the world from certain destruction. The goofy premise is amusing, in the sort of sixth-grade-boy mentality that Hollywood has already exploited so well, even if it is entirely too shallow for a full-length script. But Theater LaB has promised a season of camp, and camp it has delivered, like it or not, in this two-hour musical about a big-boobed alien who is foiled by a tap-dancing delivery boy.
Spoofing Red Scare sci-fi movies of the '50s, the show takes place in the Milwaukee Space Center, of all places. Director Jim Phillips has camped up his set with a black drape that stands in for a nighttime sky, Christmas lights that twinkle as if stars in the heavens, a toy spaceship that drops from the ceiling on a string, and cardboard cutouts that represent the high-tech nerve center that is mission control.
Into this cartoon world steps burr-cut, upright Major Malone (Greg Coles), who runs the space program along with Charlie (Holli Golden), his bespectacled, man-hungry secretary, who spends most of her time eating hot dogs in a saucy, suggestive way and occasionally answering the telephone. Right-hand man Rick Jones (Jerry Miller) pops into the control room holding hands with the major's lovely and sugar-sweet daughter, Mary (Joanne Bonasso). They're just in time to meet the new guy in town, the dashing and supersmart scientist Trenton Corbett (Scott Bonasso).
It's a good thing, too. In this 1950s setting, Trenton is the only man around capable of recognizing and appreciating Mary's exceptional intelligence, which is revealed through a series of jokes about her huge vocabulary. She giggles and bats her eyes while using words such as "sonority," "discourse" and "unstrung." Beautiful and smart, Mary is the kind of girl who can fix a glitch in a mission-control panel and still get home in time to whip up a soufflé. All seems right in the world when the handsome scientist and the boss's daughter hook up at the soda shop to sing and dance and fall in love. Little do they know that Rick is a Ruskie spy plotting something devilish. Even worse, flying saucers are descending on Milwaukee as the couple rock and roll the night away.
Zombina (Julia Kay) has traveled to Earth, female zombies in tow, on a manhunt. The buxom, big-haired blond in black tights and white go-go boots needs to repopulate her own decimated planet. Earth men have the stuff she needs, and she plans to take them all back home with the help of a secret weapon: her amazingly high and powerful singing voice. (Yes, it really is amazingly high and powerful).
Ever the good American, Trenton decides to table his love affair with Mary and build a weapon of his own to save Milwaukee. It turns out to be an old Electrolux vacuum with a very long nozzle that inspires lots of jokes about his well-endowed manhood. Mary squeals, "Trenton, tell us about your marvelous mechanism!" He answers by singing while pulling the vacuum about the stage, the long silver nozzle clutched at his groin. Up and down goes the shiny tube as Trenton makes his points.
Pubescent through and through, the show is filled with groaningly bad puns, both visual and verbal; when Mary hears about the space invasion, which is happening at the town's hair salon, she exclaims, "The very idea of a flying saucer hovering over the beauty parlor makes me want to curl up and die!"
Trivial as this material is, the cast seems to be having an unabashedly good time from beginning to end. Miller's Rick is a slimy commie who sings, "I'll be a big wig-nick" in classic faux-Russian style as he kicks across the stage crowing over his successful spy plots. Joanne Bonasso's red-haired Mary flounces about in crinoline petticoats singing and dancing with lots of energy. And Scott Bonasso's Trenton is the perfect '50s hero: Made to look like a horned-rim-wearing Ken doll by clever costumer Jodi McLaughlin, Bonasso manages to make this boring guy look sort of sexy.
But without a doubt the star of this endeavor is Kay as the lusty Zombina. She sings like a Wagnerian helmet-wearing star on steroids and stomps about in fishnet tights and a skintight dress like a linebacker on the prowl. At one point she slings silver-painted Styrofoam "flying saucers" out to the audience, singing and laughing madly with infectious joy. Silly or not, she has the best moments of the show.
Silliness is the mantra of the night. Zombies from the Beyond is filled with the good-natured humor that appeals to many middle-school boys. Too bad the musical runs long past their bedtimes.
Zombies from the Beyond runs through Sunday, May 28, at Theater LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo, (713)868-7516.
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