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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Zombies On Strings

Dan Barkasi

As a youngster – all the way to now – puppets have always been a large part of my entertainment life. Seriously, who doesn’t love the Muppets? If you don’t, shame on you! Many crazy and unique things have been done with this medium, from the children’s smash hit “Sesame Street,” to more stinging shows like “Avenue Q” making their mark in recent years with their sharp wit and off-the-wall comedic sensibilities. Great representations of puppets are everywhere. However, fans of the zombie genre have yet to be graced with awesomely fun puppets – until now!

Starting in 2007 at the “It Came From Lake Michigan” film festival, where Angry Young Men Ltd. – a Milwaukee, Wisconsin puppet troupe – were welcomed with free reign to do something of their choosing. So, the group decided to adapt “Night of the Living Dead” into a 30-minute puppet show, with rousing success.

With that said, those creative minds at Angry Young Men Ltd. have brought us “Night of the Living Dead – The Puppet Show” since that event three years ago, constantly refining the production to what it is today. This show is done in a similar vein to the aforementioned “Avenue Q,” with the audience being able to see the puppeteers throughout the performance. This style works well, especially with all of the fast movements required throughout. The puppets are fantastic – almost life size renditions of the characters from the movie.

Thankfully, the original story is stuck to very well, though not without interjecting some fantastic humor into the mix. Have to love the effect of when a zombie is bashed over the head, the head flies apart in all its glory. Comedic moments include the scene where the group is preparing to attempt reaching the gas pump; the “A-Team” theme music is played. Another example: when the gun-toting group arrives at the house near the end, one of the rednecks is yelling statements like “take that, gun control!” Those are merely a few samplings of the comedy bits in the show, and the addition of such lighthearted humor ultimately propel the show to be the fun and unique entity that it is.

As a whole, “Night of the Living Dead – The Puppet Show” is a fresh, hilarious homage to the original classic that is definitely to be experienced. You can watch the show via a few YouTube clips posted on their website as well as being able to order a DVD copy of the show. Or preferably, if the chance to see the show live arises, don’t hesitate to take it. This writer has yet to see the show in-person – only via the mentioned YouTube clips – but with how fun the show was on that medium, seeing it live would be that much better.

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