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Evil Dead: The Musical
Evil Dead: The Musical based on the 1981 horror film. The film quickly became a cult favorite among teens and devotees of the slice and dice genre and spawned two sequels — Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992). It wouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that the collaborators George Reinblatt (Book and Lyrics), Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt (Music) are hoping to ensnare the same core audience that propelled the schlocky but enduring The Little Shop of Horrors into a minor musical theater classic.
Whereas The Little Shop of Horrors was a clever mixture of horror, pathos and humor that manifested its perversely dark side rather endearingly, it didn’t mock its source which seems to be exactly what Evil Dead: The Musical is committed to doing. The lame-brained plot finds five horny college-aged friends on spring break looking for secluded weekend in the country. They find themselves in an abandoned cabin in the woods that turns out to be the workplace of a professor who delves into the occult. Of course, they don’t they realize that they are destined to become victims of unleashed evil spirits
Under the desperate direction of Christopher Bond and Hinton Battle (who is also responsible for the frenzied choreography), this musical version attempts to amuse the Evil Dead devotees ( deadheads?) with an abundance of stultifying sex, silliness, and cheesy special effects. This is embroidered with a battery of truly awful songs and dances performed by a rather amateurish but gleefully frenetic company. Atmospherically, the production can be commended for the aroma of pine that wafts through the air, and for the long-awaited finale in which cascades of fake blood from punctured body parts spout into the first few rows of seats ("The Splatter Zone"). I presume that patrons who purchase these plastic covered seats are duly warned, as they are provided with protective ponchos.
Audience members, many of whom at the performance I attended were generations younger than I, screamed with delight and anticipation as the musical progressed through the presumably familiar and incredibly ludicrous plot points, eagerly identifying with the one-dimensional, sex obsessed, characters. The horrors are set in motion when the five teens, Linda (Jennifer Byrne), Cheryl (Jenna Coker), Shelly (Renee Klapmeyer), Ash (Ryan Ward), and Scott (Brandon Wardell) decide to spend the night carousing (to put it politely) in the cabin. They come across a recording that declaims portions of an ancient tome "Necronomicon Ex Mortis" (a 13th century Book of the Dead). This sets in motion the remaining action, mostly concerning the resurrection of demons who take possession of the teens. There is singing aplenty about evil, stabbings, and death, this mouthful "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons," and some dancing, particularly "Do the Necronomicon." This gyrating limb-flailing number is sure to live in memory like "The Continental."
There is some questionable pleasure in watching this motley crew turned one by one into fright-faced demons, but it doesn’t compare to the joy of watching Ash, the lone survivor, taking matters into his own hands (oops, he’s about to lose one of his hands) — then, wield his trusty chainsaw about while singing " I’m not a killer" and hacking, dismembering and decapitating whoever and whatever gets in his way.
The actors have been encouraged to disengage themselves from honest emotions. Therefore the best that can be said about them is that they demonstrate agility in the face of Battle’s shake your bloody booty choreography and marvel at their willingness to participate in this expressly and explicitly tacky enterprise.
The petite and rambunctious Coker stands out as Ash’s sister, who gets attacked and almost torn limb from limb by rampaging trees (that’s right!) and who spends most of the show popping up from a cellar trap door screaming puns and wreaking mayhem. She gets what she deserves from the ensemble with "You Blew That B. . .Away."”
As for the composers, they deserve praise for not trying to compete with such seminal audience-approving dialogue as "What the f. . . was that?", "What a stupid b….," and "You dumb. . ." There is a singing moose head on the wall in the cabin that will bring back fond memories for some of Moose Murders, considered the nadir in dramatic entertainment. Evil Dead Dead:The Musical proves that there is always one step further down you can go.
Some late night performances are scheduled to encourage the second coming of another Rocky Horror Picture Show. But unlike the film it murders, this stage version is unlikely to spawn anything. My companion was a horror buff who took umbrage with the musical’s sophomoric mocking approach and also commented how much better The Lieutenant of Inishmore was at displaying its guts and gore. As for this critic, instead of throwing up my thankfully un-severed hands in dismay as I left the theater, I simply started defensively humming the lovely Stephen Sondheim song "A Weekend in the Country" heading home to a less threatening weekend in my New Jersey version of the country.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide