Review: Evil Dead – The Musical
When I heard this was coming to town, I had been blown away that something like this even existed. Part of me was skeptic, part of me was fanboy, and yet another was completely intrigued. Immediately I went to work for tickets. Now before I review this I must say where my views originate. I have been involved in many stage musicals in the past as a musician and a sound man. I also have acting experience. But most of all, Evil Dead the movie (as well as its one half sequel and Army of Darkness) is probably one of my favorite classics. There is a catch however. Despite me being all of the above, I am not entirely a musical fan. The last musical I saw was in 2005 and that was because my sister was the lead actress. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it for what it is, and appreciate all the hard work and talent that goes into it, but I’m a horror author, so its typically not my thing to go on musical adventures. That being said, this is a show that even non-play watching people can enjoy. Let’s get to it, shall we (I’ll mention the negative first and end on a high note).
The Bad: Let’s get this out of the way right now. There were some sound issues. Feedback at times were only a minor nuisance compared to the times that the vocals dropped out. Some of the sound effects also didn’t match up well to actions. Understand that a play is very difficult to run, especially from the sound end. I’ve been there. I know. Some of this was uncontrollable, and it happens, but as an audience member, it annoyed me.
Secondly, there was also a loop hole of sorts. During the Necronomicon dance in the second act, all of the Candarian demons were resurrected. Or at least they were supposed to be. Annie should have been one of the six doing the dance and song with them as she had turned at one point, yet she was nowhere to be seen. Okay, so I have to be honest. Shelly and Annie were played by the same actress, so it was impossible. I don’t understand why this wouldn’t be addressed.
Next is the Necronomicon dance. This was the only number in the entire play that I really didn’t enjoy too much. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I felt that it dragged on entirely too long. Maybe I was just grumpy because I had finished my beer.
Finally, and this is me being nitpicky, but in the movies there was this unknown evil force that was shown from only the camera eye. You never saw what it was, but the noise that went with it was enough to bring that menacing fear with it. I only wish there was some way that they could have incorporated that here, even if for a few seconds. I’m not sure how they could have, but I’m just saying it would have been nice.
The Good: Where do I begin? Ah, the “Easter Eggs” (aka hidden things). There were quite a few of these and they didn’t seem forced. When Cheryl walks across the stage reading a book, the book is Bruce Campbell’s autobiography. You couldn’t miss his face on the cover. And the mention of Oz the Great and Powerful was hysterical. I loved the Oz movie, and I’d rather have seen them pick on Spiderman 3 instead, but the film itself wasn’t the target. The jab was at Sam Raimi himself (who directed and wrote the Evil dead movies originally). Something about how the director for the movie was horrible. Ah Irony at its best. The third and final Easter Egg (and I could have missed more) was the “you’ll be dead by dawn” quote. Evil Dead 2 was called “Dead By Dawn”, so this being repeated a few times was a good way of combining both films (which the second was a remake anyway).
Moving on to the props, effects, and lighting. I mentioned my issue with the sound, but for the most of the time the sound was done well, and by well I mean really F*#ing cool! The demonic voices and sound effects were a major part of what we were seeing on stage. The props looked great, as well as the set design. The costumes were identical for the most part, and the lighting impeccable. There’s even the scene from the movie, where the camera zooms in on each item in the house as they become possessed. In that stage scene, a spotlight is used to highlight these objects. Then it randomly shines on two people sitting in the audience for a great comedic addition.
I’m including blood in its own category. There is a “Splash zone”. You want the full experience? Get in the splash zone. Every person got gored on by dismembered characters, and rained on by…. well I don’t want to spoil the whole thing. I’ll just say that some people leaving there better have been going straight home to take a shower.
Audience interaction because of this and a few other things told me that I wasn’t the only one enjoying the show. Everyone in the theater (which was sold out btw) gave a standing ovation for such a job well done. Oh wait! Did I forget to talk about the two most important things? What could I be thinking? Oh that’s right…
Music first. The songs and dialogue were over the top cheesy when it came to lyrics, but in a good way. If you are an Evil Dead fan, then that is what you’ve come to expect. The High points that stood out to me were the hit songs “Look who’s evil now”, “What The Fuck was That”, “Good Old Reliable Jake,” and “Bit Part Demon”. All of the other music was composed and written just as well, but the aforementioned songs had me laughing out loud.
Finally, we get to the acting. Linda (Margaret Thompson), Scott (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll), Ed (Kenton Blythe), Jake (Daniel Williston), and Annie/Shelly (Laura Tremblay) were all very into their roles. The ladies looked gorgeous and the guys complimented them well. Every one of them were into their roles, and didn’t miss a beat. This crew of actors/actresses really have great futures ahead of them if they keep it up.
For me though, I have to really give praise to Cheryl (Alison Smyth) and of course Ash (Ryan Ward). Alison was able to do everything from comedic relief to even running in a way that gave homage to the original tree rape scene from the film without going too far. She was feisty and fun. Just when you’d forget about her, she’d pop back up with some bad pun or the like to distract the audience. She did so well at this in fact that Ash was able to strap on his shotgun pouch with barely a notice. Of course she had help doing this, but really, I have to praise Alison’s performance. And Ryan. Wow, man. I hope you read this, because YOU, sir, have given me faith that someone else other than Bruce Campbell is possible in this role. Ryan Ward’s features and height not only make him appear similar to Ash’s look, but his vocal range, and performance really propel the show well beyond liking it to loving it. Perfect delivery of all the classic lines got him applause and cheers during the show, and he even was able to recover from one of the minor sound flaws I mentioned by playing in to it.
Also, don’t take me as just focusing on Alison and Ryan, because Rodrigo was hilarious, Margaret and Laura have angelic voices (in a demon movie… go figure that), and Kenton and Daniel really shined with their minor roles.
I’m rating Evil Dead the Musical with 9 out of 10 sCrypt coffins. My minor gripes I’m sure were a rarity, and the only thing holding me back from giving it a flawless. Go see this show. You won’t regret it, and you’ll never find another like it. I’d love to have seen if there was a way to do Army of Darkness the musical, but the events in that were referenced in the end S-Mart scene.
Visit www.evildeadthemusical.com for details on where to find a show near you, as well as see some clips and biographies of the cast.
I’d also like to thank www.Princemusictheater.org in Philadelphia for making this an enjoyable R-Rated experience.