The apocalypse and jazz hands together at last — A review of Zombie! The Musical

I may be in the minority on this one, but I don’t like knowing too much about a show before the curtain goes up. So, although I had a hunch that Zombie! The Musical might be a musical about zombies (I’m clever like that!), I had no idea what I was really in for. And just as well, because one of the best things about this production is that it offers an unexpected twist on two well-established genres. So, forget everything you think you know about zombies and strap in for a riotous blend of apocalyptic action and musical mayhem.

The general gist…

Without giving too much away, Laura Murphy’s Zombie! The Musical follows an amateur theatre group in the late 90s. As they prepare for the opening night of their latest musical, a ferocious virus breaks out in Sydney, putting the state on lockdown and opening a can of emotionally charged worms among the already fractured cast. 

Right from the off, the show is rife with winks and self-deprecating jokes about the cheesiness, predictability, and behind-the-scenes politics of musical theatre. It explores the lack of ‘meaty parts’ for women as well as the double standards, harassment, and general misogyny we all know too well. While the outstandingly talented women are limited to pretty, wide-eyed characters before being discarded after the grand old age of thirty-five, the mediocre men get a fast-track ticket to the bright lights of professional theatre. This sets the stage for a savage scramble for survival as the zombie apocalypse closes in.

Zombie! The Musical featuring Drew Livingston, Stefanie Jones, Natalie Abbott, Nancy Denis, Ryan Gonzalez, Chelsea Dawson, Tamsin Carroll, and Monique Salle (left to right)
Photo by John McRae

The best bits…

Set to a diverse soundtrack of 90s-inspired pop music, Zombie! The Musical is an excellent combination of wit, nostalgia, and satire. It’s well-written and strikes a good balance between boundary-pushing, farcical mockery, and celebrating the cheesy goodness of musicals. Several of the catchy songs will have you laughing out loud, but standouts for me were ‘A Really Good Doorknob’ and the superbly performed ‘Into Your Brains’ (think Magic Mike meets The Walking Dead).

The nine cast members play multiple roles throughout, with each showcasing their vocal, dramatic, and comedic range. Monique Sallé’s short interludes as Doctor Von Schreiber had audience members in stitches while Drew Livingston’s portrayal of George, the narcissistic director was painfully – and hilariously – familiar. Stefanie Jones, Tamsin Carroll and Natalie Abbott also put in stellar performances, but the stand-out for me was Ryan Gonzales. 

Natalie Abbott as ‘Sam’ and Stefanie Jones as ‘Felicity’
Photo by John McRae

Covering several roles – as well as different versions of their primary character – Gonzales demonstrated an impressively diverse range. Their combination of zombie physicality and oversexed R&B bravado in ‘Into Your Brains’ was disturbing and amusing in equal measure. And, whether they were a supporting player or the focal point of a scene, their ability to balance comedic outrageousness with subtle details was captivating. Although they already have plenty of theatre credits under their belt, this performer is certainly one to look out for in future.

Ryan Gonzales as ‘Dave’ performing ‘Into Your Brains’
Photo by John McRae

The verdict…

Zombie! The Musical is a fun and easy show that will appeal to a wide audience. Musical theatre aficionados will enjoy the satirical introspection along with the countless theatre in-jokes and references. That being said, the pop-centric and nostalgic soundtrack will also appeal to those unfamiliar with the tone and style of traditional musicals. 

Like any good musical, the underlying message of Zombie! The Musical is universal. Set against the backdrop of a world-altering virus that polarises opinions and tests the characters’ ability to accept their differences, it will resonate with any human being who has lived on planet Earth over the last few years. 

Whether you love musicals or just want a fun night out, we highly recommend this show. It’s funny, clever, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has all the components of a good musical – from the catchy songs right down to the cheesy ending that makes you leave the theatre with a smile.

Zombie! The Musical runs from 8 March – 6 April 2024
Hayes Theatre Co: 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011  
Tickets start at $84.00 (not including concessions)  
Monday 6:30pm, Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Thursday 1:00pm, Saturday 2:00pm  
Run time: 2 hours 10 minutes (including interval)

About the author

Originally from Wales, Siri is a native Welsh speaker and bilingual writer living in Sydney. With a background in film and television production, particularly comedy, she loves to make people laugh - usually at her own expense. Siri writes about all sorts from film and restaurant reviews to marathon running and adventure travel. She loves pale ale and shiraz and is yet to meet a chocolate mousse she can’t devour in seconds. An intrepid adventurer trapped inside the body of a couch potato, there’s nothing Siri won’t try - but she can’t promise to be even remotely graceful while doing it.


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