While Cat on the Wall is feverishly penning our ever-important review of Whitby Goth Weekend, our dear chum across the pond, Michal Bajer, steps in to provide a glimpse to perhaps the bloodiest stage show in the world: Evil Dead: The Musical.
Necronomicon ex Mortiis, roughly translated, “Book of the Dead.” The book served as a passageway to the evil worlds beyond. It was written long ago, when the seas ran red with blood. It was this blood that was used to ink the book. In the year thirteen hundred A.D., the book disappeared.
These are the words that ceremoniously and ominously begin a spiraling journey into the most bloodiest, goriest, cantankerously cadaverously cult musical of all time: Evil Dead. Based on the legendary horror films directed by Sam Raimi and starring Uncle Sam’s favorite son, Bruce Campbell as the chainsaw wielding, boomstick blowing demon-fighting everyman, Ash, the musical premiered in 2003 in Toronto, and has been going on for 12 years strong with multiple tours in Canada and the US, often playing to sold out houses.
Essentially a combination of Evil Dead 1 and 2 (with a sly reference to Army of Darkness) the show presents all the elements that made the films so memorable and translate them impeccably well to the stage. Recently, it’s embarked on a North American tour and stopped on by the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, October 28th to deliver some laugh, fright and bodily fluids.
Adding just the perfect amount of camp (a lot), Rocky Horror/Little Shop of Horrors influences (the deadites have their own dance riffing the timewarp, called the Necronomicon) and enough one liners to make you choke on your own laughter (and stage blood) the show begins with 5 College students On Their Way To An Old Abandoned Cabin In The Woods.
No, that’s not a summary, that’s the actual song title.
We are introduced to Ash (Trent Mills), his girlfriend Linda (Michelle Nash), sister Cheryl (Saphire Demitro), best friend Scott (Alexander Braatz) and Scott’s squeeze drunkenly picked up at a bar 3 days ago, Shelly (Merritt Crews).
To have the best spring break of the year, away from their mundane, everyday lives.
An old cabin in the woods they are b̶r̶e̶a̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶o …temporarily lodging in to engage in premarital sex, drinking and games of Guess the Word.
But things quickly go awry when the gang discovers a book made of human flesh, a skeleton shaped dagger and a tape recorded containing the translated passages from the book, stating the ability to summon deadite demons from another world. Turns out the cabin belonged to a Professor Knowby, who was working on transcribing these passages from the Book of the Dead. Like any sensible young adults, they play the tape and madness ensues.
One by one, everyone except Ash is possessed, killed or dismembered in a violent fashion. As Scott states just before he passes on, “Death is a bitch. A stupid bitch.” Meanwhile, Annie (Merritt Crews), the daughter of Prof. Knowby, is on her way to the cabin – with her fiancée Ed (Alex Dvorak), and Good Ol’ Reliable Jake (Matt Willis), and, of course, the remaining pages of the Book of the Dead. They walk in just in time to see Ash taking a chainsaw to his girlfriend’s possessed severed head.
Ash’s assurance that it’s “not as bad as it looks” does little to alleviate the horror, and from that point on it’s a battle against time to translate the remaining pages and send the deadites back to their own world.
To praise the cast as incredible would be a strong understatement. To claim that they are in on the joke is too subtle. Everyone is absolutely enjoying every blood soaked minute, and knowing that their audience is into it as well helps in generating an even greater thrill. Not only in terms of line recitation (which is absolutely a hoot), but for the taxing demands of the physical comedy. Jumps, runs, dances, physical abuse by possessed hand, the cast is put through an intense 2 hour show, and though the sweat is literally pouring out of everyone at the end, it just makes the audience love and appreciate what they are going through for them all the more. Every cast member is given a chance to shine, even poor ol’ Evil Eddie who is given his own tune Bit Part Demon and allowed a quick soft shoe routine before being unceremoniously blown away by a shotgun blast.
The libretto and music are another strong suit of the show. Double entendre’s, ham-fisted innuendos of a sexual nature and subtle song-crafting such as What the Fuck Was That? and All The Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons is sure to bring a smile to even the most hardened heart and joyless jaw. The music swivels from bubble gum pop, to loud bombastic show tunes, syrupy and saccharine love ballads and pure exclamations of anger and shouting such as in the tune “Ode To An Accidental Stabbing”. How can one not get emotional when one hears how “…a housewares employee found the perfect girl” or when “…let’s see if you’re still laughing when I rip out your Fallopian tubes” and “…goddamn you woman; You fucking stabbed me!” The show is peppered with those groovy one liners made ever so famous in the films, and the audience responded with due applause and cheers every time they were declared. “Gimme some sugar baby”, “This is my BOOMSTICK” all received the reception you would expect from Evil Dead fans.
Of utmost importance was the set design, and the crew receive special thanks for making the infamous cabin come alive on stage. Fans will be able to catch little references (a Freddy Kreuger glove hanging above the door for instance) sprinkled here and there and marvel at the recreation of various items, such as the bookcase, the lamp and cellar door. The objects in the cabin at one point come alive, and they all move accordingly shaking to and fro and laughing maniacally just as in Evil Dead II. How enough string was procured to pull it all is a mystery to this reviewer. Props were carefully and lovingly sculpted to resemble their movie counterparts as much as possible. The dagger, the knife, the tape recorder. The only object that seemed to stand out was a goofy looking moose head with googly eyes, but when it becomes possessed and starts to sing during a musical interlude, you completely accept it.
And last , though not certainly not least, we have the special effects.
This sign says it all.
The literal bloodbath is present at the grand finale, where Ash swings his chainsaw and dismembers and hacks away at various limbs. The first 5 rows were completely taped over with garbage bags covering the seats and floor for obvious reasons. When the sprinklers activate, the audience is assaulted with a literal rain of blood. Ponchos were being sold for the unwary audience member, but few took up that offer and accepted the baptism of blood with open arms and even wider happy mouths. In fact, at the end of the show and during curtain call, a woman in the seat right next to me yelled out demanding “More Blood!” to which the cast were only too happy to comply with. They appeared back on stage with water guns and pumped the audience with enough sticky red liquid to last a lifetime.
Evil Dead the musical is an experience both for fans and newcomers alike. Everyone, both on stage and in the audience is determined to have a good time, and that’s what the show is. A bloody good time with enough bad jokes, catchy tunes and passionate performances to awaken a bit of deadite in anyone.
Directors: Christopher Bond & Hinton Battle
Screenplay/Lyrics: George Reinblatt
Score: Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and George Reinblatt.