Squonk Opera’s onomatopoeic, jokey name suggests an irreverent troupe bent on creating a novel kind of musical theater, and the Pittsburgh-based band, which was founded only two years ago, largely fulfills that promise. Its five members draw on their varied backgrounds in experimental theater and classical composition and performance to create an often witty, always maddening and exhilarating melange of songs and instrumental pieces. Jackie Dempsey, the group’s self-described kapellmeister, says the group owes a debt to Frank Zappa and Tori Amos. However, listening to their first CD, Howandever, one can also easily detect traces of Laurie Anderson, Kurt Weill, Debussy, Ravi Shankar, medieval chant, and rap. Can Squonk’s music ever take on a semblance of coherence? The answer might be found in Night of the Living Dead: The Opera, which the group wrote and performed last month in Pittsburgh, birthplace of the cult-movie classic’s director, George Romero. At this return engagement at the Heartland Cafe they’ll present excerpts from the “opera” along with selections from their debut CD. Friday, 10 PM, 7000 N. Glenwood; 465-8005.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David S. Rubin.