Evil Dead: Bringing a cult classic to the stage

If breaking into song with arterial spray and severed limbs in the background is your thing (and isn’t it everybody’s?), New World Stages is certainly the place to be. That’s where show creators and writers Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and George Reinblatt have concocted a musical stage version melding most of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy.

Raimi’s first film began an instant cult following with 1981’s The Evil Dead, its tale of five friends whose weekend trip to a cabin in the woods unleashes an evil spirit bent on killing the campers and turning them into zombies. The evil spirit follows hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) into two sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Raimi, who graduated to blockbuster fare like the Spider-Man movies, worked with a much sparer budget in these films. While there is plenty of blood and mayhem, what stands out among the low-rent effects is its campy sense of humor.

That’s precisely what Bond and company aim to emulate onstage with their version of Dead, born several years ago as he and friend Reinblatt performed in a Toronto production of the biggest cult musical of all, The Rocky Horror Show. They decided to bring another bloody film to the stage to expand its audience, but plans for Pulp Fiction fell through. Bond and Reinblatt then came upon the second installment in the Dead trilogy, and since then, he says, “we’ve been knee-deep in Evil Dead.”

Bond avers that the show is fun for hard-core Deadites as well as newbies to the story. “The show stands alone,” he says. “It’s a horror-comedy experience. We’ve got witty catchphrases, an interactive element, a splatter section, and even a cabin that comes alive.”  The show’s libretto also includes fun song titles like “Look Who’s Evil Now,” “Do the Necromonicon,” and “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons.”

Something else Dead has is triple Tony-winner Hinton Battle, the famed actor dancer, who choreographed the show when its creators deemed that Dead needed some more movement. (Horror-comedy fans may also remember that Battle guest-starred in the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). “He’s a cutting-edge guy who loved the idea and brought in a whole new element with his top-notch choreography. He was full of great ideas, and a lot of fun.”

Raimi and Campbell have also given the show their own thumbs’ up, which is high praise for a big fan such as Bond. “I tip my hat to [Raimi],” he says. “He pioneered the horror-comedy form. I thank him for officially authorizing this show.”

“There’ll be drinks in the seats, it’s a good rockin’ party,” Bond assures. Dead sure sounds like a good time.

(left to right): Darryl Winslow, Jenna Coker, Brandon Wardell, Jennifer Byrne, and Tom Walker Photo by: Carol Rosegg

(left to right): Darryl Winslow, Jenna Coker, Brandon Wardell, Jennifer Byrne, and Tom Walker Photo by: Carol Rosegg