“They’re coming to get you, Barbra,” the iconic phrase anyone with a horror movie bone in their body will recognize is from George A. Romero’s groundbreaking cult film The Night of the Living Dead.
Filmed in grainy black and white in 1968, it gave birth to the zombie phenomenon though there are no “zombies” in the film, but ghouls aplenty. It spawned countless movies and now made it’s way to the Toronto stage.
The Night of the Living Dead Live, had it’s first run in Toronto this April. It was brought to us by director/co-writer, Christopher Bond, one of the brains behind The Evil Dead, the Musical. With George A. Romero as executive producer along with Russ Steiner, the original “Johnny” the play had horror credibility before it began.
The play is a homage to the original film, down to the black and white makeup and set design. It’s script playfully pokes fun at the character flaws of each member of the doomed group. Barbra, played beautifully by Gwynne Phillips, is hilarious in her traumatized, almost catatonic state as the other characters jockey for power and the only gun.
Wonderfully portrayed by Mike (Nug) Nahrgang, the character of angry, middle aged racist, Harry Cooper is a constant thorn in the side of the hero, Ben, played by Darryl Hinds. Ben’s character was controversial in the original film as it was one of the first times a black man was cast as hero in a film predominantly cast with white people. The play doesn’t shy away as it uses their racism to mock both Harry Cooper and Chief “shoot’ em in the head” McClelland played by co-writer, Trevor Martin.
Dale Boyer, also a co-writer, plays both Harry’s bitter, sharp tongued wife Helen and, Judy, the vapid, love interest for Tom played by Anthony Fleming. Fleming has multiple roles, and it’s his role as Johnny that says the iconic phrase at the start of this article.
By eliminating outdoor scenes, the play is able to explore a variety of hilarious ‘what if’ scenarios, like, what if they did stay in the cellar since it’s “the safest place,” according to Harry Cooper. Then again, with my favourite character, Karen, the homicidal daughter of the Cooper’s (played by Phillips) in the basement, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Night of the Living Dead Live is playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille from Oct. 5 to 27.