As far as cult movies go, the “Evil Dead” series must be one of the most recited amongst my group of friends. There isn’t a gathering where we don’t reference our boomsticks, where we tell each other to “shop smart, shop S-MART,” or one of us exclaims, “We’re all gonna die here!” The trilogy of “Evil Dead” movies is a schlock horror paradise and if you have not watched all of them, I invite you to “join us.”
There has been a myriad of cult movies that weren’t musicals which were turned into Broadway musicals: 9 to 5, Carrie, and Heathers, to name a few. Where those musicals tried to recreate the magic of the original movies, Evil Dead: The Musical embraces the campy nature and dark humor of all three “Evil Dead” movies.
The story is simple enough, five young adults travel to a secluded cabin in the woods. What can go wrong? Ash (Andy Ingram) brings his sister, Cheryl (Sapphire Demitro); his co-worker, Linda (Amelia Hironaka); his friend, Scotty (Christopher Fulton); and Scotty’s recent lady friend, Shelley (Merritt Crews) all out to a secluded cabin which is supposedly abandoned. They discover a treasure trove of items—including the famed Necronomicon, also known as the “Book of the Dead”—which ultimately lead to them unleashing demonic forces. While each of the group ultimately meets their doom, Ash is forced to make quick decisions on how to contain the demon invasion.
Annie (Merritt Crews) arrives from Cairo with more pages from the Necronomicon. She and her boyfriend Ed (Mark Willett) make their way to the cabin with the help of good ol’ reliable Jake (Jonathan Shaboo). When they arrive at the cabin, they are confronted by Ash and his gang of ghouls. Together, Annie and Ash fight the horde of the dead and ultimately use the Necronomicon to vanquish the demons—or did they?
Having seen more bad attempts at this kind of movie-to-musical transition than I can count, Evil Dead: The Musical gets the balance right. The production captures the sophisticated, shrewd humor of the original trilogy which is complemented by a hysterical musical score. While numbers like “Look Who’s Evil Now,” “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” and “Housewares Employee” kept the audience in stitches, it was the side-splitting performance of “Do the Necronomicon” which brought down the house. On more than one occasion, the score of this show reminded me of the score to The Rocky Horror Picture Show—deliciously devious melodies with wickedly clever lyrics. This is one soundtrack you should be dying to get.
All the cast members delivered inspiring performances—every single one. Ingram, who normally plays Ed, had to step in for Trent Mills, who was suffering from food poisoning. Those are big shoes to fill, but Ingram completely personified Ash’s charm and straight-man humor. Like Ingram, Hironaka had to step up to the plate in her performance as Linda, which is normally played by Michelle Nash. Hironaka’s performance was reminiscent of the comedic genius of Cheri Oteri. While her acting was fantastic, her gorgeous vocals were equally impressive. Rounding out the understudy trifecta, Mark Willett who normally plays minor characters had to fill for Ingram’s Ed. All three did an exceptional job in their roles and should be commended.
As far as comedic performances go, rarely have I seen a performance as brilliant as the one turned in by Demitro. Her superb comedic timing, physical comedy, and remarkable vocals make this talented actress a triple threat. Crews, doing double duty as Shelley/Annie, was another who delivered an unforgettable performance. The statuesque actress went from playing the perfect dumb blonde to a sassy, sharp-tongued character in the blink of an eye. Her ability to deliver a bad pun effectively is demonically good. Fulton as Scotty was enjoyable in his role as the perfect testosterone-driven jerk. His performance in “Do the Necronomicon” was one of the show’s many highlights. Rounding out this phenomenal cast was Shaboo as Jake. Shaboo’s performance was memorable and endearing. While his vocals were admirable, it was his engaging physical performance which really shined.
The reason Evil Dead: The Musical works is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It even highlights some of its more “convenient plot points” as it weaves all three films together. It has enough of the iconic references to the original movies such as the cellar of doom, Ash’s famed boomstick, and Ash’s devilish severed hand while making its own inside jokes. Bruce Campbell’s (who played Ash in the trilogy) book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, makes an appearance, as well as a reference to the Spider-Man franchise of which Campbell was also involved.
Where the undead are involved there is blood—lots of blood. If you want the full, 3-D experience of Evil Dead: The Musical, I highly recommend you take advantage of the “splash zone” seats. A truly unique experience, you will have an interactive experience as Ash disposes of the Deadites. Pro tip: bring a poncho.
Even if you haven’t seen any of the movies, this production has something for everyone. An outstanding score, a hilarious storyline, and a magnificent cast make this a must-see for the Halloween season. Any way you slice it, you are going to have a bloody good time. │ Jim Ryan
Evil Dead: The Musical plays The Grandel Theatre through October 22nd. For show times and ticket prices please visit Metrotix.com or call 314-534-1111. To save 50% off tickets use promo code: Johnnie.