Blood, guts, gore, and laughter — yes, laughter — abound at EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL, the new off-Broadway show with all the makings to be this decade’s ROCKY HORROR SHOW.
Five vacationing college students looking for fun break into a secluded cabin in the woods, where they discover instead The Necronomicon, an ancient flesh-bound book containing blood-inked spells with the power to summon the demons of Candar. After playing a tape recording with passages read aloud from the book, the group unwittingly unleashes evil spirits that successively turn them all into demons. It’s up to Ash, the meek housewares employee, to fight off the demons any way he can or he’ll be dead by dawn.
EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL — which first debuted at Toronto’s Tranzac Club, then moved to Montreal in July 2004 — combines the characters and plot from SPIDER-MAN director Sam Raimi‘s 1980s horror-comedy movie trilogy (EVIL DEAD; EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN; and ARMY OF DARKNESS). The production successfully transitions Ash from a wimpy, lovesick stock boy into the heroic, chainsaw-wielding, wise-cracking badass that fans have come to adore. Audience members in-the-know squealed with delight when Ash (Ryan Ward perfectly emulating Bruce Campbell, who popularized the character in the movie trilogy) raised his sawed-off shotgun and yelled, “This is my boomstick!”
But familiarity with the EVIL DEAD cult movies isn’t a necessity. The stage show seeks to engage the audience from start to finish, from the theater’s pine-scented entryway to the ponchos given to brave ticket holders in the first three rows, an area appropriately dubbed “The Splatter Zone.” If you’re lucky enough to snag one of these plastic-covered seats, be prepared to be covered in stage blood.
The stage set — which was newly built for the New York City theater run — takes you right into the haunted cabin’s interior where all the furnishings are rigged to come “alive,” though they don’t always do so on cue, but the ensuing improvising lends to the show’s humor. What’s more important is the actors’ flawless on-stage transformations into zombies — singing and dancing zombies, even.
Much like the SPAMALOT Broadway musical, some of the funniest numbers parody traditional musical theater with the use of self-aware melodrama and grand hand gestures as well as integrating obligatory numbers into the acts, like the “romantic duet” (Ash and his girlfriend Linda awkwardly gush over how they found love as S-Mart store coworkers) and “The lament” (the cabin owner’s daughter woefully tells the tale of how all the men in her life keep getting killed by Candarian demons).
Reminiscent of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with its mix of doo-wop and rock opera, the music is perfectly paired with witty lyrics enticing enough to not only make you want to “Do the Necronomicon” dance right along with the soul-swallowing demons, but it is also amusingly clever enough to tell you how. (Talk about custom made for repeat-audience participation!)
As Ash would say, “Groovy.”
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