Having previously acted in two Baltimore Rock Opera Society shows,”Incredibly Dead!” co-director Mike Ziccardi was familiar with the ensemble’s costume design and decorating prowess when he and his co-creators unveiled the gore-filled script. Even so, he worried that it might be difficult to simulate dismemberment in front of a live audience.
He was happy to be proven wrong.
“It was show-ready,” he says, describing the moment when gore designer Amanda Boutwell showed him how they could replicate limb-separation on-stage. In fact, the combination of costumes, props and replica blood “looks exactly like it did when we talked about it a year ago,” Ziccardi says.
Speaking with Baltimore Fishbowl last week, he and BROS artistic director Aran Keating separately made note of their ensemble’s expedient work getting “Incredibly Dead!” into shape for its premiere this Friday.
The production, which BROS has labeled “pure B-horror” with “cheap thrills, intestine-length twists and blood-drenched fun,” traces convergent plot lines about the Morder family, whose patriarch, General Maximilian Morder, develops a magic goo; the Cryptz family, which discovers that very same goo that can resurrect the dead; and the Coombs family, caught in the middle as clients of a funeral home.
The comedy-horror show features 30 different costumes, a bounty of fake bloodshed and death (enough for the group to give it an “R” rating), multiple sets and a “nice combination of fresh talent and some of our people who have been with us for seven years” onstage, Keating says.
“It’s both a scream as well as just really out-there comedy. I’ve been comparing it to Mel Brooks a lot, kind of like a ‘Young Frankenstein’ vibe with a lot of the ’80s horror-movie tropes.”
Musical director Paul Joyce and composer/vocal director Greg Bowen assembled the score, which Keating says was influenced by ’80s heavy metal, “Oingo Boingo-kind-of-zany rock and roll” and—again—”Mel Brooks musical numbers,” wavering between the silly and the serious. Ziccardi offered Alice Cooper’s 1986 single (and “Friday the 13th Part VI” theme) “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask),” and the the 1987 slasher film “Blood Rage” as musical references for Joyce and Bowen.
“All the songs are different,” Ziccardi says of the score, which BROS is releasing on an album on this Friday, when the show premieres. “They all have a different musical style, but they all fit within the show.”
Returning BROS actors Eric Poch and June Keating (no relation to Aran) play the lead roles of morticians Reggie and Silas Cryptz, characters who Ziccardi describes as “two heroes who are absolute morons, but no matter what you do, you can’t help but like them.”
Among the new faces in the cast is Meghan Stanton, a regular ensemble member at the Single Carrot Theatre who’s playing Margeaux Morder, daughter of the villainous General Maximilan. Margeaux serves as an explainer of sorts to help the audience keep pace, Stanton said, and occupies a role “somewhere between a hero and a rebellious teenager.”
“Incredibly Dead!” is BROS’ first original release since “Brides of Tortuga” in fall of 2016. The company rehashed 2011’s “The Terrible Secret of Lunastus” in September and October of last year, and linked up with the Arena Players in February for “Constellations and Crossroads,” a double feature of black history-focused short plays that had previously appeared in the “Six-Pack” series.
This show also marks BROS’ return to Zion Lutheran Church downtown, a familiar host site for the nomadic troupe.
Soon, the nonprofit rock opera collective plans to have its own dedicated space for rehearsals, set design, band practice and whatever else. With a successful fundraiser in the books, BROS has raised more than $75,000 to carve out a permanent home—to be dubbed The Paradise–with its own auditorium, box office, front and back houses and more.
Keating said he could only disclose that BROS is eyeing a space in Station North, citing an ongoing round of grant applications and the group’s status of being in the “middle zone” of formal planning. (They’ll release details when it’s more official, he said.)
The next four weeks for the BROS are all about onstage bloodshed, jokes, celebrated deaths, heroics, dastardly deeds and heavy metal.
“You can’t pigeonhole it into one thing,” Ziccardi says of the show. “It’s part ‘Abominable Doctor Phibes,’ it’s part ‘Fly 2’ and it’s part the episode of ‘Frasier’ where Niles thinks Maris is cheating on him with their fencing instructor.”
“It’s theater for people that are bored by most theater,” Keating said.
“Incredibly Dead!” premieres this Friday at Zion Lutheran Church, located at 400 E. Lexington Street, and runs through June 3. Tickets $20-$100, ranging from general admission to VIP packages. More info and tickets here.
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