Evil Dead: The Musical

Who can say no to a musical version of the Evil Dead movies, with a bit of Army of Darkness tossed in for greater fannish satisfaction? Not I, that’s for certain.

The show started as a Toronto-based production by the Diesel Theater with approval from Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Judging from the video on the evildeadthemusical.com web site, the Toronto production is slightly more elaborate, with a larger stage (and probably budget) to work with. Apparently the Toronto show has been an audience favorite, and has been extended three times past its original end date of June 2007. In fact, the notice on the web site somewhat desperately mentions that they really, really mean it this time and cannot extend the date past September since, y’know, they need to put on other shows now.

Our local version is great fun. The cast of the Willows Theater Company in Martinez does a fine job and the show relies on some clever and hilarious tricks that are very effective both as work-arounds for impossible-to-stage special effects and as gags simultaneously. Not unlike the early Raimi B-movie sensibility of the Evil Dead films, the show works its low budget atmosphere and horror movie awareness to good effect.

The writing, by George Reinblatt, is clever and extremely fond of its source material, plugging everyone’s favorite lines into the script periodically with a nudge and a wink that the audience seemed to appreciate, loudly. And like the movies themselves, it plays fast and loose with the shaky movie continuity and takes the liberties it needs to in order to make the story zip along and keep folks entertained.

The musical numbers are all good and while some cast members are better singers than others, they are all good in their roles. Michael Scott Wells as Ash does well in the iconic Campbell role and displays some daring physical acrobatics during the “possessed hand” sequence that must be hard to maintain for the two months of the run. Jenny Angell as Cheryl has a great number with “Look Who’s Evil Now” — the title of which is emblazoned on the T-shirts available for purchase in the lobby — and Lowell Abellon as Ed gets to have fun with “Bit Part Demon.” The only issue with the performances is the somewhat muffled sound while wearing masks for the deadite songs, during which I had difficulty making out some of the lyrics.

Despite the smaller stage at the appropriately named Campbell Theater, the set design was excellent, with at least one surprise I didn’t see coming. The trapdoor to the basement worked well and the woods and outdoor scenes were handled nicely and with, uh… varying degrees of realism but a lot of humor. The show is definitely not for children, as the website says it contains “inappropriate language, fountains of blood, and nothing even remotely educational” and while I might quibble with that last part (it’s never too early to learn about the perils of reading demonic passages aloud in remote cabins in the woods), the former is entirely accurate. Not for nothing are the first rows designated as the “Splatter Zone” where audience members are literally drenched with fake blood by show’s end. The rest of the non-splattered crowd was equally raucous, roaring during several scenes as well as singing along to parts of others. Standout songs include “Good Old Reliable Jake,” “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” and “What the …?” And of course, “Do the Necronomicon.”

The show is currently only scheduled to run through the 26th so get down there while you can. It’s a long drive but a fun group outing and well worth getting a carpool together. Just eat before you go. While the theater does have table service and the drinks are pretty tasty, the food is your basic popcorn and hot dog fare.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #70, July 23, 2008