Maelstrom - The Zombie Opera
A fast-paced, 90-minute hybrid of zombie movie, classical music, and stage dramedy, this spooky chamber piece will make you laugh, cringe in fear, laugh some more, and probably run home to watch every zombie movie and opera you can find afterwards. Maelstrom is scored for four singers, a handful of actors, piano, two violins, two celli, and a moaning zombie chorus.
Interested in performing or producing Maelstrom?
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Expectant mother Anna is at a cutting edge private hospital, receiving treatment for her mysterious, undiagnosed disease, when the entire complex locks her and her friends inside, leaving them at the mercy of the doctors, nurses, patients, and security guards who begin to act very strangely...
Reed wrote the first notes of Maelstrom in spring 2006 as an art song for a friend. A few short months later, he met Ben in a music theory class, and they began working on the piece together.
As the story developed, the Maelstrom horde began to grow and producers, performers, and artists began signing on to the project, including director Nico Izambard and the original cast: Anna Viemeister, Jeremy Griffin, Bryan Coover, and Claire Brooksbank, all of whom were an essential part of securing funding, hiring additional artists, and promoting the show. What began as Ben and Reed’s passion project mushroomed into a fully staged production, complete with live orchestra, special film/camera effects, a cast and crew of over forty people, and gallons of blood. Maelstrom premiered on July 9th, 2009 with a sold out three week run.
Since then, Maelstrom has been produced by Kitsap Fringe Opera (2015) and Opera Bend (2016). The premier production was nominated for three Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards, and subsequent productions have continued to inspire artists, challenge performers, and delight audiences with Maelstrom’s uncompromising loyalty to the history and traditions of both opera and zombie culture.
In 2019, Ben and Reed decided to return to Maelstrom one last time to insert two new pieces of music, create optional choral parts for the zombie horde to sing, rewrite the libretto and score based on feedback from past productions, and record a studio album of the music. The studio album was released on May 30, 2019 and features Portland artists Jocelyn Claire Thomas and Zachary Lenox, and Twin Cities artists Nelle June Anderson and Eric Smedsrud.
The Broadside, November 11, 2016
"Reminiscent of Verdi, Beethoven, and Zeppelin. It’s darn funny, it’s dramatic, it’s bloody gruesome." - Larry Farrington
Source Weekly, December 28, 2016
"The best event I saw this year." - David and Mallory DaCosta
Bend Bulletin, October 13, 2016
"Squee!" - David Jasper
The Willamette Week, July 10, 2009
"A delicious 90 minutes of high concept pandemonium. [Reimer and Larson] took cues from sources as diverse as Schoenberg and Danny Elfman, while nevertheless creating a unified, eerily atmospheric sonic landscape." - Jon Minervini
Portland Vanguard, July 21, 2009:
“One of the most innovative pieces of theater I have seen from PSU, either through the student group TASO or the department itself.” - Carly Nairn
Cascade A&E, November 1, 2016
"A serious piece of music."
Mail Order Zombie, July 23, 2009
"Very subtle, very smart, very clever. The more I think about it, the more I wish I could see this again." - Brother D
2010 Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards
Outstanding Original Musical (nominated)
Outstanding Original Score (nominated)
Sophya Vidal - Outstanding Set Design (nominated)
Studio Album Cast
Special thanks to our wonderful studio cast!
Jocelyn Claire Thomas (Anna)
Jocelyn Claire Thomas, a versatile soprano praised for her haunting sound and musical intelligence, is a frequent performer in opera, concert, and recital. Jocelyn has appeared with Tacoma Opera, Eugene Opera, Opera Bend, Brava Opera Theatre, The Astoria Music Festival, Bravo Northwest, The Bremerton Symphony, Cascadia Chamber Opera, The Bach Cantata Choir, Opera Theater Oregon, Portland Concert Opera, The Beaverton Symphony, Necessity Arts Collective, Ping & Woof Opera, Cult of Orpheus, and Portland Summerfest. Ms. Thomas holds a B.M. from the Oberlin Conservatory, a M.M. from the Peabody Conservatory, and a G.P.D., from the Peabody Conservatory. Jocelyn is based in Portland, Oregon where she maintains a private studio in voice, piano, and flute. For more information, please visit www.jocelynclairethomas.com.
Zachary Lenox (Jeremy)
Viewed as "a broad, resonant baritone that is exquisitely controlled throughout his entire range," Zachary Lenox has performed leading roles across North America. Notable roles include "Silvio" in Pagliacci, "Marcello" in La Boheme, "Marullo" in Rigoletto, "Count Almaviva" in Le nozze di Figaro, "Guglielmo" and "Don Alfonso" in Cosi fan tutte, "Papageno" in Die Zauberflöte, "Father" in Hansel and Gretel, "Sid" in Albert Herring, "Gianni Schicchi" and "Betto" in Gianni Schicchi, and "Dick Deadeye" in H.M.S. Pinafore.
Mr. Lenox has appeared with Portland Opera, Eugene Opera, Tacoma Opera, Opera Parallèle, Opera Bend, Pacific Music Works, Cascadia Chamber Opera, Portland Summerfest, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Portland Concert Opera, Ping & Woof Opera, Eugene Concert Choir, Bravo Northwest, and the Astoria Music Festival.
Concert appearances include Bass Soloist in Handel's Messiah and Judah Maccabeus, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, Schubert's Mass in G, Mozart's Requiem, Verdi Requiem, Faure Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, Bach's Coffee Cantata, Bach's Christmas Cantatas, and BWV 56.
Zachary recently won the Pacific Northwest Sings competition, and is also a past winner of the MONC Idaho/Montana District Auditions. He received his B.M. and M.M. from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.
Upcoming engagements include "Featured Soloist" in Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen with the Central Oregon Symphony and "Bass Soloist" in Mozart's Notturni with Chamber Music Northwest.
Eric Smedsrud (Bryan)
Eric Smedsrud, baritone, grew up in Eden Prairie, MN and currently lives in Saint Louis Park. He received his Bachelors of Music from Lawrence University in Vocal Performance and his Masters of Music from Indiana University, also in Vocal Performance. While at Indiana University, Eric performed the roles of Abdul in Menotti’s rarely performed The Last Savage, Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Sharpless in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
Professionally, Eric has sung with companies such as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Charlottesville Opera, where he will return this summer, performing Escamillo in Brook’s La Tragedie de Carmen (an abridged version of the Bizet classic), and covering Sir. Lancelot in Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot. Recently he was seen in Artistry MN’s production of Victor/Victoria as Squash Bernstein.
Outside of singing and performing, Eric Smedsrud enjoys staying active by lifting weights, running, playing basketball, and biking. He is an avid fan of Minnesota’s professional sports teams.
Nelle June Anderson (Claire)
Nelle June Anderson is an opera singer, actor, and composer based in Minneapolis. In 2020, she will tour with the MN Bach Society and internationally-acclaimed Ensemble Caprice, singing Ramiro in Matthias Maute's reconstructed version of Motezuma (Vivaldi). Last year, she was an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Performing Arts, where she composed art-pop interpretations of Bellini, Debussy, and Poulenc vocal works, and starred in American Tender, Indie Vision Award winner at Twin Cities Film Festival 2018, for which she also sang the score. Nelle recently represented the MN Bach Society at the St. Paul Music Crawl and performed leads in Orpheus in the Underworld (Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company), Il Matrimonio Segreto (Oberlin in Italy), and Fauré's Requiem (Bard College Conservatory, The Conductors Institute). She won First Prize in the Schubert Club Annual Scholarship Competition in 2014. Nelle graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Arts in Music—Classical Voice from Bard College, where she studied with Ilka Lomonaco, Rufus Müller, and Dawn Upshaw. She had so much fun working with Reed and Ben to record this inventively luscious piece!!