Of all the high school rites of passage, none is more symbolic than finding a date for the prom. It's an event that is frozen in time, one night where you get to dress up, dance the night away - and take out the date of your dreams. But when your date night plans don't work out - alternative measures might have to come in to play.
"It starts out with a couple who are madly in love but then her parents make her break it off, and he's heartbroken," says actor Josh Freeland. "He decides that he's going to kill himself by throwing himself into the nuclear plant. But then he comes back - and he's a zombie."
Freeland is playing the character of Jonny in the Marshall Civic Players' production of “Zombie Prom.” It's a musical with an all-teen cast - but there are more theater veterans on stage than you would think. A lot of the kids in the show have been acting since they were in the single digits – which is more than half their lives, if you think about it.
"I've done theater here for six or seven years now - I think since I went into sixth grade," says Freeland. "I play sports and I do theater, and that's pretty much my life right now."
Freeland is going for both comic relief and emotion - a hard line to walk in the theater world.
"People can expect a lot of laughs - maybe a tear or two. I'm hoping that I can get people to love my character so much that when he dies they'll feel sympathy."
14 year old Riley Wilson is playing the role of Toffee, Jonny's date, in the play. All the starring female characters have "sweet" names - Candy, Coco, Ginger. It's like taking a visit to the grocery store.
"All the guys are J's and all the girls are sweet things, if ginger is sweet? Cause one girl is named candy so they're all not candy names. Some of them are seasonings," she says.
This is Riley's firs time playing a lead role - and she's excited. She feels that the show plot is, in her words, a bit cheesy, but fun nonetheless.
"I sing about him committing suicide. By the title you can tell he's probably not going to stay dead - he comes back, so it's funny to see the way he comes back," she says.
When Jonny does come back from the dead as a zombie and isn't allowed to return to school, feisty journalist Eddie Flagrante comes in to make the story as sensational as possible. His original motive is to be ruthless in reporting on the zombie prom problem, but as 18 year old actor Isaiah Potter explains, the outcome also speaks on understanding, and acceptance. "Just because he's different, doesn't mean that he shouldn't be treated like everybody else, and that's a big problem in today's society, I think," says Potter. "Just because I'm in the theater doesn't mean I can't go play basketball. And it just has that basic info that just because you're different doesn't mean you can't be like everybody else or do everything like everybody else or take a risk like everybody else - it's just funny and it's different . I've never done anything like this before, and I'm really proud I did."
Producer Christina Woods has been working with youth productions for two decades. She says its nothing short of a professional experience.
"They're a lot of talented kids. They just shine when they're up there, all of them - every single one. They just have amazing personalities and they're just amazingly talented. It's just - it's ridiculous the amount of talent that is on this stage," she says.
It will only be on stage for one weekend, but Woods says it's worth the trip.
"These kids have been working and working and working at this - some nights just dancing literally the same dance over again until they get it right - until it looks good. Yes, they are determined."
Zombie Prom opens July 17.