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Zombie the Musical - Hayes Theatre (NSW)

Music and Lyrics by Laura Murphy.

Reviewed by Claira Prider

Hayes Theatre, Sydney

Playing until April 6

An exceptionally performed, fast paced, gory, hysterical and uproarious comedy about surviving community theatre

Set in 1999, Zombie the Musical invites us into the world of Australian amateur theatre as a local community theatre group prepare for their opening night - don’t worry, nothing about this show is amateur. Girl power teen pop is dominating the radio waves with the likes of Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child and Britney Spears, and this community theatre’s leading lady wants a role that sees her empowered and independent just like them. No more naïve, ingenue princesses in need of rescuing, the girls want juicy, meaty roles – something they can sink their teeth into. While busily preparing for opening night, the cast have failed to notice that just outside, Sydney has been locked down and is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. They need to save the city in order to save the play – can they uphold the values of their community while society is collapsing around them?!

The curtain rises to expose a dusty theatre with brown skirting boards, brown trimmed opaque, arched windows, and musical posters plastered on the walls. Nick Fry’s set design is beautifully detailed, down to the dust and grime painted around the cornices. Cupboards, wig boxes and clothes racks are all bursting with colourful costumes (that have probably been worn by at least twenty different people) and props sprawl across the floor. Verity Hampson’s lighting is bold and skilfully incorporates a theatre within a theatre, as well as many moments reminiscent of late 90s music videos. Esther Zhong’s eclectic costumes and Chiara Assetta’s choreography brilliantly highlight and reinforce the many 90s-00s references through the work.

The cast of 'Zombie! The Musical'. Photos by John McRae

Natalie Abbott is charming and so loveable as the kind-hearted and positive thinking Sam. Stefanie Jones excels as leading lady Felicity as she darts between kicking over mannequins, beheading zombies and fighting for better writing and casting of female roles. Abbott and Jones have the most delectable chemistry and their comedic timing is breathtakingly funny – reminding me again of how sad I was to miss seeing Muriel’s Wedding. Drew Livingtston is hilariously hammy as the overly controlling and passionate theatre director George. Tasmin Carroll is magnetic as the seasoned community theatre darling, her stunning ballet sequence scene is a highlight of the night. The phenomenal cast is rounded out by Ryan Gonzalez, Nancy Denis, Chelsea Dawson, Monique Salle and Adam Di Martino, each bringing so much guts, hearts and brains to their work.


While it’s bursting with clever lyrics and catchy, melodic tunes, Laura Murphy’s score feels lacking in structural variety; the fast pace and tone doesn’t differ greatly from start to finish, at times feeling like one long comedy sketch. The clever and comedic writing features endless pop culture and musical theatre references, including Sweeney Todd, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Britney and Nokia bricks.

Performed by a handful of the country's very best, this brand-new Australian pastiche musical is not to be missed

Opening with the exploration of themes of female empowerment and independence, the symbolism and character development feels somewhat abandoned by the time Act II begins. The writing seems to be more focused on extracting laughs (which it well and truly succeeds at) from its musical theatre references, that it sacrifices the all-important feminist themes setup in the beginning. The tune 'Meaty Part' rings as the show's best war cry, standing out amongst the rest of Murphy's score throughout the production.

Directed by Darren Yap, Zombie the Musical is a laugh out loud (snort laugh embarrassingly loudly) musical comedy that will leave you nostalgic for the 90s. Musical Director Damon Wade leads the fabulous four-piece band as they support this witty, hysterical and uproarious comedy about surviving community theatre. Performed by a handful of the country's very best, this brand-new Australian pastiche musical is not to be missed.


Cast & Creatives

Starring Natalie Abbott, Tamsin Carroll, Chelsea Dawson, Nancy Denis, Adam Di Martino, Ryan Gonzalez, Stefanie Jones, Drew Livingston and Monique Sallé.

Director Darren Yap

Musical Director Damon Wade

Choreographer/Assistant Director Chiara Assetta

Set Designer Nick Fry

Costume Designer Esther Zhong

Lighting & Projection Designer Verity Hampson

Sound Designer David Grigg

Dramaturg Brittanie Shipway

Fight Director Tim Dashwood

Wig, Hair & Makeup Designer Hayden Tee

Video Associate Maddy Picard

Intimacy Coordinator Chloë Dallimore

Stage Manager Bronte Schuftan

Assistant Stage Manager Jessie Byrne

Wig, Hair & Makeup Design Assistant Ashleigh Grace

Sound Operators Sam Ducker & Keith Muir

Music Copying  Gianna Cheung & Damon Wade

Arrangements Laura Murphy

Orchestrations Laura Murphy & Steven Kramer

Additional Orchestration Steven Kramer

Musicians: Maia Hopf (deputy musical director), Graham Hunt, Jonathan Lim, David Stratton




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