Did you get your invitation to “The Zombie Wedding” yet? If you’re like me, your first question might be: Are they serving a variation of head cheese for the zombie guests? You know, human brains for the zombies and chicken or salmon for the rest of us. The father of the bride has announced that all zombies who RSVP are asked to stuff their bellies with gray matter before the wedding so they won’t be tempted to attack the human guests. (Good move, dad: It also saves on your banquet tab.)
That’s the premise of Saturday night’s Long Island premiere of the new immersive theater experience presented by Joe Corcoran, producer of “Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding,” regarded as the first commercial hit for an interactive audience-participation show.
“I never guessed this would become my life’s work,” says Corcoran, who graduated in 1982 with a business degree from Hofstra University and worked for Bear Stearns investment bank before signing on three years later with his drama student friends to produce “Tony ’n’ Tina.”
Good move. Bear Stearns collapsed during the crash of 2008. “Tony ’n’ Tina” played 22 years in New York and still tours.
Except that one groom is a zombie, the premise of the two wedding shows is similar. Audience members double as guests at the wedding and reception. The actors mingle with the paying “guests,” spreading rumors about the wedding party and perhaps get into fights — the cast, hopefully not the audience — if they’ve had a bit too much to drink.
“Tony ’n’ Tina” was conceived as a traditional Italian-American wedding and reception with actors playing outlandish stereotypes for laughs. “The Zombie Wedding,” by contrast, has a more complicated back story. An apocalyptic event has turned half the population into zombies ruled by a ravenous craving for human brains. But Ashley and Zach fell in love before the apocalypse and still want to marry. Love will protect Ashley, Zach vows, though we all know how the course of true love runs.
Besides his two wedding shows, Corcoran was also a producer of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and, more recently, the short-lived “Doctor Zhivago,” the musical, on Broadway.
In 2014, after TV’s “Walking Dead” helped zombies supplant vampires as darlings of the horror genre, a booking agent told Corcoran, “We can book a show about zombies anywhere.” With a script by Greg D’Alessandro in hand, Corcoran took “The Zombie Wedding” to a New York presenters conference in January. Since then, it’s staged a dozen performances in New Jersey and one at Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre.
At Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater, guests who arrive early for dinner and/or drinks can opt for a zombie makeover that will make them guests of the groom. Those who choose to remain come-as-you-are are guests of the bride.
But don’t worry, Corcoran says, “No one will eat you alive.”