Evil Dead: The Musical Reviewed

Stage musicals based on movies are a dime a dozen these days, but the new Evil Dead: The Musical, based on Sam Ram Raimi’s cult horror-comedy trilogy begun in the 1980s, is definitely worth every penny.

Evil begins when five college kids on a wild weekend in the woods embark upon a book of the dead, known as the Necronomicon. In short order, each cast member gets killed and possessed by evil spirits known as Candarian demons, including Cheryl (Jenna Coker), in a muted version of the character’s film death, which included violation by tree. Ultimately, Ash (an excellent Ryan Ward), is left on his own to defend himself and the cabin, armed with only a chainsaw, a shotgun and an arsenal of one-liners (culled from all three films). 

And that’s barely Act 1. Librettist George Reinblatt, who composed with Christopher Bond, Frank Cipolla and Melissa Morris (Bond also co-directed with Hinton Battle) has fascinatingly strung the plots of the first two films together, and sprinkled in a little bit of the third (Army of Darkness) as well. The show is high camp and self-effacing, mentioning the films’ plot inconsistencies and creating musical numbers that subvert the genre. Tom Walker has a great showstopper with “Bit Part Demon,” lamenting that even nice bad guys finish last. “Housewares Employee,” sung by Ash and girlfriend Linda (Jennifer Byrne) also gently ribs the conventional love song. Naturally, in keeping with the Evil events, Ash will have to decapitate Linda a half hour later. Word to the wise: beware of – or, if it suits you, embrace — the “Splatter Zone,” which has the first three rows of the audience getting doused by arterial spray during several gruesome sequences.

Ryan Ward as Ash. Photo by: Carol Rosegg

Ryan Ward as Ash. Photo by: Carol Rosegg

Other highlights include Renee Klapmeyer’s oldies-style rendition of “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” where scientist’s daughter Annie recalls a startling trend; “What the ?,” where Ash and friend Scott (Brandon Wardell) start putting the bloody pieces together, and “Do the Necronomicon,” an ingenious “Thriller’-style group number, which emphasize what a vital presence three-time Tony-winner Battle’s expertise is here. Battle, who also merged camp, choreography and the undead in “Once More With Feeling,” the acclaimed musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, really elevates this Evil to a more artistic plane.

He isn’t alone either. Louis Zakarian’s special effects and make-up design are incredibly impressive, as is David Gallo’s set design. His jerry-rigged cabin is a character unto itself. Battle’s and Bond’s entire ensemble cast (which also features Darryl Winslow as Jake) dives into their respective roles, proving that no show is too lowbrow provided it runs long on talent and the blood flows free.

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