How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Zombie?: Observations on the Stage Reading of The Sounds of Screams – November 17, 2012

So, given that the world is supposedly going to end in roughly a month from now (if the ancient Mayans are to be believed), it’s fitting that  in recent years, there have been so many books, films and TV shows about zombies and zombie killers. From the classic zombie apocalypse tales to the inclusion of zombies in classic literature, it only seems natural that there should be a zombie musical. Yes, I do realize that my previous blog post dealt with a vampire musical, and now I’m writing about a zombie musical – the odds of the next blog post being about singing and dancing werewolves is slim to none (unless someone thinks to write one). While I’m not that much a fan of the supernatural/horror genre, I do enjoy a good parody of it, or at least a comedic twist to the classic tales of vampires, werewolves and zombies (oh my!). This brings me to The Sound of Screams, which hilariously brings the zombie apocalypse to the world of The Sound of Music, written by my good friend Kelley Blessing and her good friend Ali Goldaper. After all, who better to combat the zombie hordes than singing nuns?

The general plot for The Sound of Screams has Maria as a highly trained zombie killer, having been trained by the Mother Superior, being dispatched to Salzburg to aid and protect Captain Georg von Trapp and his children from the zombie leader Christopher King and his plans for world domination. I had been invited by Kelley to the first official stage reading of the script, which took place at the 440 Studios on November 17, 2012. The cast consisted of the writers, along with a few of their friends – Allie Willhard, Stephen Yellin, Dana Moran and Ali Sattar, playing multiple roles when needed (as there were more characters to portray than actors present). Quite the informal reading (the first of which I had ever attended), the set consisted of a few folding chairs and a trio of plastic crates, with a small audience (which basically consisted of myself and Kelley’s parents). There was no music track or pianist present (though there was an upright piano in the room), so the musical numbers were spoken instead of sung; also, as this was the first official reading, the scripts were in hand, being read as the actors performed.

From the reading: (from left to right): Kelley Blessing, Stephen Yellin, Dana Morgan, Ali Sattar, Allie Willhard and Ali Goldaper

I enjoyed the reading, and the obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious references to The Sound of Music, as well as the altered lyrics to suit the inclusion of the pervasive zombie infestation. There were some notable deviations from the source material in that Captain von Trapp is an army captain, rather than a naval captain, and that the number of children has gone from seven to four (and that the children were all girls). Given the limitations of the space, which was quite intimate (roughly the size of an average school classroom), the cast gave a fantastic performance, improvising props and costumes with whatever was available in the room. There was a brief talkback at the conclusion to discuss and analyze the script, and there was constructive criticism given with regards to the vernacular to be applied, that is whether to utilize modern terminology or stick to period specific (1930s) phrasing. As this was the first reading (and the second version of the script, which had its start last August), The Sounds of Screams is still very much a work in progress, with changes to the overall tone and dialogue quite inevitable. Still, I believe this is a show worthy of a place in the New York International Fringe Festival and beyond – a fun and loving homage to a beloved musical, with a dash of horror. I do look forward to seeing how the script develops and what the next reading will bring. Quasi-regular updates for this musical can be followed at The Sound of Screams Blog.

The cast of “The Sound of Screams” reading (from left to right): Kelley Blessing, Ali Goldaper, Stephen Yellin, Allie Willhard, Dana Morgan and Ali Sattar