Book and lyrics by John Dempsey, based on story by Dempsey and Hugh M. Murphy. Music by Dana P. Rowe. The original off-Broadway production opened on 9 April 1996 and was directed by Philip William McKinley with musical staging by Tony Stevens, running for a total of 12 performances. The show was originally produced at The Red Barn Theatre, Florida in 1993.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
Once upon a time in the nuclear fifties, it’s just another day at ENRICO FERMI HIGH, which is named after the man who invented the atomic bomb. Jonny Warner – an orphan from the wrong side of the tracks – has transfered to the school. Miss Strict, the comic and demanding – indeed tyrannical – high school principal, senses trouble in this new James Dean-styled student, who has taken the “H” out of his name as a sign of his rebellious nature. When Miss Strict throws the Civil Defense siren, the students fall under their desks for the drill test. Jonny meets Toffee, a typically sweet high school girl, and it’s love at first sight. In true fifties style, the pair decide to go steady (AIN’T NO GOIN’ BACK). Miss Strict, who does not approve of this hallway romance, along with Toffee’s parents, persuade Toffee that Jonny is no good for her and that she must end the relationship. Toffee obediently tells Jonny that her parents won’t let her see him anymore, despite the fact that she still loves him. They argue and Jonny runs out the door as Toffee begs him not to do anything rash. Suddenly, the town’s nuclear power plant explodes. The voice of Eddie Flagrante, the reporter for Expose magazine, is heard reporting the news that Jonny has died by hurling himself into the Francis Gary Powers nuclear power plant, which made it explode in a class three nuclear disaster. His charred and radioactive body is buried at sea in a lead-lined coffin. Toffee laments the tragic tale of her last moments with Jonny to the girls (JONNY DON’T GO).
Three weeks later, Toffee is still haunted by the memory of her dead boyfriend, while the rest of the school is getting excited about the forthcoming Senior prom (GOOD AS IT GETS). The kids try and cheer Toffee so she will move on with her life by looking to the future instead of the past (THE C WORD). She ignores their advice and “acts out”. Miss Strict admonishes the girl for her behavior and tells her to get her mind out of the graveyard and on to more important matters (RULES, REGULATIONS AND RESPECT). But Toffee is obsessd. Even as hr friends continue to try and cheer her up, she still hears Jonny’s voice, which seems to be coming from a nuclear-green locker (AIN’T NO GOIN’ BACK – REPRISE). Toffee opens the locker to behold a phosphorescent green Jonny covered with seaweed (BLAST FROM THE PAST). Toffee rushes off in fear with Jonny in pursuit.
Meanwhile, in the newsroom of Expose, Eddie is sitting at his desk, bent over his typewriter, singing of the joys of his job (THAT’S THE BEAT FOR ME). Josh, the head of the student newspaper, brings word that Jonny has returned from the dead. Smelling a hot story, Eddie heads straight for Enrico Fermi.
At school, Jonny catches up with Toffee to explain how his love for her has allowed him to return (THE VOICE IN THE OCEAN). Toffee isn’t quite sure how to respond to the turn of events, but Miss Strict is unequivocally appalled at the turn of events and tells Jonny that he will not be allowed back at school (IT’S ALIVE). Jonny and Toffee and the kids wonder, “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?” Johnny asks Toffee to go to the prom but she sadly refuses because she can’t disobey her parents.
While the student body argues the pros and cons of Toffee’s relationship with her gangrenous beau, Eddie arrives to try and get Jonny’s story. But when Miss Strict marches on in her gym clothes, Eddie’s reaction reveals that they obviously share a juicy history. However, Miss Strict is reluctant to open up about their mysterious past (CASE CLOSED). Miss Strict orders the kids off but Jonny stays in the background. Eddie chooses an angle for his story – he will argue for Jonny’s right to come back to school, a classic case of civil rights. But Miss Strict is adamant: the cadaver can’t return (CASE CLOSED – CONTINUED)!
Eddie refuses to accept this decisiona and, along with the kids, tries to get Jonny back in school (THEN CAME JONNY). Eddie plans to put Jonny on a TV show, “Hard to Believe”. The Motorized Gasoline Guys – the show’s sponsors – and Ramona Merengue open the show (COME JOIN US) and Eddie interviews Jonny, who tells of his love for Toffee (HOW CAN I SAY GOODBYE?). Toffee is in her bedroom surrounded by study books with a small TV on the floor. She has just finished watching the interview and her girlfriends call to tell her that the show was the most romantic thing they had ever seen on TV (EASY TO SAY). She comes to a decision about Prom Night.
On prom night, Miss Strict is caught unawares by Eddie, who teases her with hints of their torrid romance back when they were in high school (AT THE DANCE). Their discussion becomes an EXPOSÉ about their memories and how they broke each others hearts. They embrace, but the school bell snaps Miss Strict back into reality and she runs off into the hallways.
Decorations transform the gym into a veritable shangrila of papier maché and toilet pape for the “Atomic Prom” and all the students have arrived for a night of fun in their prom gowns (ISN’T IT?). Toffee arrives in a gorgeous taffeta gown joins Johnny – a handsome corpse in a cutaway, with a corsage in hand (HOW DO YOU STAND ON DREAMS?). They are crowned King and Queen of the prom and a kiss seals their FORBIDDEN LOVE. Miss Strict sees them kissing and she decides to end the prom then and there (THE LID’S BEEN BLOWN). She demands that Jonny leaves the premises. but Eddie pushes her for the reason she despises the toxic teenager so much and she reveals the details of her own diasterous prom night. Grounded on the night of her prom for dating a boy from the wrong side of the tracks – Eddie – Delilah ran away with her beloved and, parked off the side of the old highway three, they conceived a child. Eddie shipped off to the Navy the next day and never learned of the consequences of their sweaty, sordid – and embarrassingly brief – tryst, while Delilah’s parents promptly sent her to an out-of-state orphanage to have the baby. Delilah Strict knows a thing or two about the trouble that comes with boys, and she is determined not to let Toffee make the same mistakes (DELILAH’S CONFESSION). Eddie, who has been doing a few more investgations, then announces that their illegitimate child is none other than Jonny. Mother and son are reunited. All is forgiven. Jonny gets Toffee and Delilah even gets to go to the prom at long last, with Eddie, her one true love (ZOMBIE PROM).
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