New Line Theatre will host a public reading of The Zombies of Penzance, what the company is calling a long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, in January 2018.
Following the reading, the company plans to produce the show fully in October 2018 to open New Line’s 28th season. Newline artistic director Scott Miller directs.
According to New Line, the work features most of the same characters from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, but a somewhat different plot.
In The Zombies of Penzance (subtitled At Night Come the Flesh Eaters), according to press notes, “Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn't want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance (for obvious reasons). According to documents found with the manuscripts, Gilbert and Sullivan finished work on The Zombies of Penzance in mid-1878, but their producer Richard D’Oyly-Carte refused to produce it, calling it vulgar, impolitic, and unchristian, and in one letter, ‘an operatic abomination, an obscene foray into the darkest of the occult arts.’ In a letter to his cousin, Gilbert expressed his deep disappointment, writing ‘I fear the walking dead shall be the end of me yet.’ Until now, music scholars had been baffled by that reference. After a battle that almost ended the partnership, the team reluctantly agreed to rewrite their show, and in 1879, D'Oyly-Carte debuted the much more conventional, revised version, The Pirates of Penzance, which added the characters of Ruth and the policemen, and eliminated all references to zombism.”
For more information, visit NewLineTheatre.com.