Interview with “Night of the Living Dead: The Musical” Director Jon Rowland

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Jon Rowland is a performer, director, lighting designer, and all around theatre guy. His new production is Night of the Living Dead! The Musical.  This production is playing October 2-4th & 9-11th at the Michigan Theatre, Jackson, MI.


–You’re the director of Night of the Living Dead! The Musical. But you have a long, prolific history as a director, right?

I have been directing shows for almost 30 years. Right after graduating high school, I was asked to direct a children’s musical by one of my former teachers. I went on to directing many well known shows, including a 5 year run as artistic director for a shadowcast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


–Should audiences expect singing zombies?

Not only should the audience expect singing zombies, but celebrity zombies. Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Freddie Mercury; to name a few.


–What drew you to want to direct a musical version of this classic horror masterpiece?

I was drawn to this particular show because of the music and how it connects to the original masterpiece. Even though it is loosely based on the movie, many fans will see the connections.


–Did you find it difficult to cast?

Jackson County has a lot talented people, but finding the right fit can be difficult. I am proud and excited about the cast/crew of this show.


–Is it true that this musical has a different story than the original film?

Yes, it is. While the original was about survival; this version of the story incorporates the struggle for musical writers and the copyright law. During the celebrity zombie apocalypse, no less.


–What was your personal introduction to the zombie genre?

My first introduction to the zombie genre would have been Day of the Dead. I was a big fan of Romero and the extreme nature of the film made me want more.


Rowland Pic1–Is this suitable for all ages? Is it really scary? Is there gore?

If I was to give this show a movie rating, I would give it a PG. I have made sure that zombies are “zombie looking” without being too scary. Also the gore is very light. Children will enjoy the show for the music and dance numbers. The songs will stick in your head for days after the show.


–What kind of technical challenges did you face when putting this show together?

The biggest technical challenges would be how to incorporate video into the small set. Also, having to mic over 20 cast members.


–If you could put any five people in the audience for opening night, who would you choose?

Hmmm…that is tough choice. I would say that if I could have the original characters from the classic film in attendance, they would love the show.


–What kind of swag will be available at the show?

Free pictures with the cast and possibly “guest zombies”.


–Do you recommend a few drinks before viewing, or is this show best seen clearheaded?

The Michigan Theatre of Jackson does have a bar. Drinks will be available for the shows. Whether you are slightly buzzed or clearheaded, you will enjoy the show either way.


–What’s the best reason for horror fans to attend your show?

The Michigan Theatre has not had live theatre for almost 10 years. Just recently they have started to bring it back and this show is just the start of more shows in the future. If you love horror and music; this is the show to see this Halloween season.


Thanks, Jon!

For further information on Night of the Living Dead!  The Musical:

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