Zombie rock musical, anyone?
In "Diamond Dead," a sexy young Goth named Aria DeWinter once loved a rock band called Diamond Dead, and it broke her heart when she accidentally killed the whole group. To make amends she's struck a deal with Death and is bringing the band back for another run at stardom. They're still dead, of course, but who says zombies can't rock?
The Landless Theatre Company is getting the jump on this actual B-movie project, which is shrouded somewhere in the dead zone of preproduction. Horror king George Romero is set to direct, and casting is being hotly debated in some of the dimmer caverns of the Internet. Who would make a better Aria, Gwen Stefani or Pink? Is Marilyn Manson really onboard to play the Rastafarian-style Jesus who shows up when the clergy revs up the inevitable protests?
For "Diamond Dead"-heads who can't wait for the film, Landless has put together a spunky little production in the tight confines of DCAC. It comes across like the eager nephew of "The Rocky Horror Show," flaunting its tacky habits and urging the audience to join in; goodie bags are even provided so the crowd can throw things at the stage on cue. And grim old Mr. Death? He's portrayed as a puppet with a Foghorn Leghorn voice.
"This song is for all of you necrophiliacs out there," murmurs ashen-faced, leather-clad Andrew Lloyd Baughman as Dead frontman Dr. Diabolicus. With that, the ramshackle garage band -- including a badly decomposed Nancy Spungen on guitar -- launches into a paean in which the entire chorus is the single stretched-out word for postmortem affection. The songs, with music by Richard Hartley (music director for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show") and lyrics by Brian Cooper (who wrote this goofy screenplay), sound like rejects from "Bat Out of Hell," though Cooper does produce a sterling line when Aria and Diabolicus perform a duet. "Crash test," Baughman croons with Rachel Anne Warren's Aria, pausing before the kicker, "dummies in love . . ."
Director Shirley Serotsky's show veers between overwound and woozy; it's a roughed-in piece of trash, with semi-polished trash probably being the goal. The supporting acting and musicianship are about what you'd expect in a no-budget camp/grunge exercise, but Baughman, who did the stage adaptation and musical direction, and Warren, who designed the set and costumes, are both nicely laid-back and watchable. The video and animated segments projected on a large screen at the back of the stage are sluggish early on but fresh and funny enough by the finish to save the show's dreadfully sloppy ending, in which a climactic "Rocky Horror" riff is shamelessly exhumed and "Diamond Dead" threatens to stagger around forever.
Diamond Dead, music by Richard Hartley, lyrics and original screenplay by Brian Cooper, stage adaptation and musical arrangements by Andrew Lloyd Baughman. Directed by Shirley Serotsky. Lights, Jon Lawniczak; animation, Jen Tonon. With William E. Morris, Josh Speerstra, Jen Tonon, Rob Ebbin, Zane Oberholzer, Patricia Penn, Kathleen Gonzales, Chad Allen, Ernie Achenbach and Matt Baughman. Approximately 90 minutes. Through Oct. 30 at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Call 202-462-7833 or visit www.landlesstheatre.org.