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Dead can dance

All moaning, all shambling! Living Dead in Detroit.
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Published 10/19/2005

George A. Romero’s horror classic about the undead, rising from the grave to dine on the flesh of the living, has been terrifying audiences for decades. But, apparently, what it really needed all along was a few toe-tapping musical numbers. So now, a magical night of singing, dancing and brain-eating awaits, as the Hastings Street Ballroom hosts The Night of the Living Dead — The Musical.

Very loosely adapted from the 1968 low-budget cult masterpiece, the stage version follows young Barbara (Kelly Rossi) and Johnny (Billy West) as they take a Sunday drive to visit their mother’s grave. The story swiftly turns into — in the words of the press release — “a ridiculous blood-covered sing-along.” While horror purists might blanch at the notion of this kind of a remake, the performance plants tongue firmly in cheek and offers up not just zombie crooners and hoofers, but a zombie rapper and a surprising dash of zombie romance. Then again, hardcore horror fans might also suggest that that musical theater has been seriously short on blood, gore and widespread face-chewing — an issue Living Dead — The Musical writers Thomas Hoagland and Chad Kushuba hope they’ve addressed with their fusion of fright and frolic.

Highlights include such rocking musical numbers as “Perfect Family” and the show-stopper “Scared Shitless.” The play features a host of local talent and familiar faces, including Detroit’s diva-in-residence Audra Kubat as “The Narrator,” and comedian-actress Jen House as “Mother.”

House describes the production as “just really campy fun” in the vein of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (though toast-throwing is discouraged). She also suggests that “it’s the perfect thing to come and see before you go to the haunted houses.”

In a town as obsessed as ours is with all things ghoulish and creepy, this may be the demon seed of a new local tradition.


Oct. 21-31. Show times are 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 4 and 8 p.m., Sunday. Hastings Street Ballroom, 715 E. Milwaukee St., Detroit. Tickets, $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Call 313-831-0665 for tickets and information.

Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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