Evil Dead: The Musical
Written by George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla,
A blood-splattering, silly-ass musical confection
|Broadway in Chicago presents|
|Evil Dead: The Musical|
Review by Lawrence Bommer
An import from our neighbor to the north that’s almost as inebriating as Canadian Club, Evil Dead: The Musical is a blood-splattering, silly-ass confection based on the gag-inducing 80s film franchise. (How come the “good dead” never get a show? I guess it would be too dull.)
A huge hit for over a decade in Toronto and an off-Broadway offering too, it aims for—but doesn’t quite achieve—the cult-like craziness of “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Broadway in Chicago’s presentation at Water Tower Place’s Broadway Playhouse is a sophisticated frat show packed with grungy special and sound effects, exploding blood bags, severed heads, accidental stabbings, eviscerated entrails that include a cock and balls, silhouetted beheadings (a not so hilarious sight anymore), headless torsos, and a serviceable score of novelty numbers.
The familiar plot focuses on a conveniently isolated cabin, complete with talking moose head and a haunted cellar in Lindsay Anne Black’s storybook, pop-up set. Here five college friends on spring break may well be “dead by dawn,” victims of the Candarian demons who have staked out this isolated refuge. These gratuitously nasty immigrants from the afterlife can only be defeated and sent back through a time warp by strategic readings from the Necronmicon or Book of the Dead. It disappeared in 1300—until now, when it was considerately left behind by the summer home’s spirit-seeking owner.
The future victims, some of them colleagues at a local “S-Mart” housewares store, deliver reliable stereotypes—the take-charge, gun-loving leader Ash, his no-nonsense girlfriend Linda, dumb-bimbo Shelly, Ash’s dorky sister Cheryl, and sexist Scott. Joining them is demon huntress Annie, onto her dad’s dealings with demons, her dweeb boyfriend Scott, and local yokel Jake. Cut off from civilization, they soon discover that the cabin’s curse “won’t let us leave.” (The audience has no such excuse.)
In no time these very eligible corpses find themselves attacked by homicidal trees and by each other and themselves, which of course forces them to slaughter their pals, just as the wicked emanations desire. (Briefly possessed, Ash finds his hand inventively attacking him until he’s forced to cut it off.) Of course the undead come back, zombie-style, a further excuse for more spurting bodily fluids—until finally Ash gets a chain saw and a massacre inevitably ensues.
The songs, which presumably get better as the crowd gets drunker, dutifully chronicle the mayhem, as in the running ballad “Look Who’s Evil Now,” or just provide an excuse for Stacey Renee Maroske’s choreography, like the funky big dance number “Do The Necronomicon” a poor man’s version of “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.” Ryan McBride does a “Mr. Cellophane”-style deflation as he realizes that, even dead, he’s only a “Bit Part Demon.” Callie Johnson has fun with her catalog complaint “All The Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” (a song that has virtually no life outside this show). “Blew That Bitch Away” is the unsubtle finale at the S-Mart outlet where the ex-possessed salute their stupid survival.
As always with a spoof, this show can’t be both scary and satirical. Oddly, the most hilarious part of the show is unintended: It comes when the theatergoers who sat in the four plastic-shrouded rows of the “splatter zone”– but who didn’t take the hint to put on their protective slickers–screamed very sincerely when the copious blood hit their soon-to-be-dry-cleaned clothes. That was a scream. (One caution: If you still decide to go, sit in the middle, not the sides, because those sightlines suck.)
Evil Dead: The Musical continues through October 12th at Broadway Playhouse, Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut (map), with performances Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays 7pm and 10:30pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $30-$68, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at BroadwayInChicago.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
Photos by Peter Coombs
Julie Baird (Linda), Demi Zaino (Cheryl), Callie Johnson (Shelly, Annie), David Sajewich (Ashley), Creg Sclavi (Scott), Ryan McBride (Ed, Moose), Andrew DiRosa (Jake), Ryan Czerwonko (Fake Shemp, Spirit of Knowby)
behind the scenes
Christopher Bond (director), Stacey Renee Maroske (choreographer), Lindsay Anne Black (set design), Claudia Kada (costume design), Gareth Crew (lighting design), Michael Laird (sound design), Phoebe Harper (stage manager), Aaron Eyre (music director), Jeffrey Latimer, William I. Franzblau, Just For Laughs, Starvox Entertainment (co-producers), Peter Coombs (photos)