Gabriel Hammad's new horror-comedy "The Rocking Dead: A Zombie Musical," opening Friday, Oct. 9, at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, is a love letter to the zombie genre, an unabashed nod to pop culture's current outbreak of undead, dopey, groaning characters.
It rhymes, of course, with "The Walking Dead," AMC's current gory megahit, and its summer spinoff "Fear the Walking Dead." The lead badass of "The Rocking Dead," Sheriff Rick Daryl, combines the first names of two principal characters in "The Walking Dead." Much of the blood, guts and post-apocalyptic mayhem are set in a cabin in the woods, a la the "Evil Dead" franchise.
"We even stole the Georgia setting from 'The Walking Dead,'" says Hammad, 30, of Coral Springs. "'Walking Dead,' 'Evil Dead' and 'World War Z' were heavy influencers on the plot of the show. I love zombies, but I like to riff on pop culture to tell the stories that I like to tell."
The new production, running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 1, features a book and lyrics by Hammad and music by partner Barrett Shuler. It is only the duo's second show. Their first bore the similarly punny title "Game of Scones," which premiered spring as a parody reimagining HBO's "Game of Thrones" set in a South Florida bakery filled with death, pastries and pleather thrones.
So popular was "Game of Scones" that Hammad says his new Punchline Theater Company inked a partnership with the Coral Springs venue to produce five new productions for the 2015-16 season in the venue's 80-seat Black Box Studio.
The first is "The Rocking Dead," which follows the aforementioned sheriff (Daniel Keys), who retreats to a cabin after a traumatic experience. He arrives at the same time as members of the Rocking Dead, a three-piece "hippie, druggy" Southern-rock outfit that's recently been rebranded as an electronic-pop band lead by Anya (Jen Chia), a diva who's "close to a real-life Britney Spears," Hammad says.
"This version of the band is God-awful," Hammad says with a laugh. "They got caught lip-synching at a concert, and now they're doing some soul-searching. Then, zombies attack."
Because of the cabaret-style venue, Hammad says the nine-member cast, some undead, will mingle and interact with the living.
"I think playing on pop culture can draw nontheater fans to the theater for the first time," Hammad says. "Pop culture has that attraction. People won't know what to expect."
"The Rocking Dead: A Zombie Musical" will run Oct. 9 through Nov.1 at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Admission costs $39.22. Call 954-344-5999 or go to CoralSpringsCenterForTheArts.org