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Review: ‘Evil Dead: The Musical’

Groovy Baby!

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando goes backstage with Theater Alive to see what it take to on "Evil Dead: The Musical."

Listen up all you primitive screwheads, The Terror on Tenth kicks off tonight with "Evil Dead The Musical" performed by Theater Alive.

Terror on Tenth is a multi-week, multi-group, multi-venue celebration of horror and Halloween at the Tenth Avenue Theater downtown. In addition to "Evil Dead The Musical" there will be another live theater event, art show and film festival. Theater Alive is a small company overseen by high school drama teacher Stacey Allen. This is my first time seeing one of their productions and it was a delight. Energetic cast, clever staging, and a fun time all around.

"Evil Dead The Musical" is based on Sam Raimi's trilogy of "Evil Dead" films. The films have achieved cult status and their star, Bruce Campbell has become a horror icon approaching deity status. Campbell created the character of Ash, a hapless college student whose night with friends in a cabin in the woods is spoiled by some pesky demons, possessed trees, and witches. Along the way in the three films, Ash gets possessed, cuts off his hand, and replaces it with a chainsaw. The films boast some of the most quoted lines in film horror history (this is my boomstick, come get some, yo she-bitch, groovy...) and perfected a brand of horror splatstick (splatter gore and slapstick comedy) that's simply irresistible.

This musical theater version of the plays captures some of the fun but it's nowhere near the genius of another screen-to-stage horror film translation, "Re-Animator The Musical." Mark Nutter's work adapting Stuart Gordon's "Re-Animator" into a musical stage show is positively sublime... and easy to sing along with. "Evil Dead The Musical" is definitely fun but the music is far from memorable and the lyrics are merely adequate.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Beth Accomando

The Book of The Dead that opens "Evil Dead: The Musical."

That said, Allen and his company give it their all and deliver a fast-paced, fun-filled night. There's a tiny splatter zone where audience members get a minor spray of blood. Being a veteran of a dozen night in the "Re-Animator" splash zone I feel I can accurately assess this as minor blood spray. But based on the timid teens in the front row who wore plastic ponchos and kept pulling the poncho over their heads, they behaved as if they were being drowned in blood. Since when did teenagers become so wussy? Com'on people, if you sit in the front row of "Evil Dead The Musical" and it's called the splatter zone, you should be down there begging for more and leave the theater proudly covered in blood. I don't know what's wrong with this younger generation.

The production gets high marks for set and prop design. The tiny space upstairs at Tenth Avenue seats maybe 50 and Allen makes use of the whole stage, the aisle, the outside hallway, and more. The design is playful so that it engages the audience and asks them to view the limitations as a plus rather than a minus. Some things are deliberately cheesy -- like a body double for one of the possessed girls -- and some things are downright groovy -- like the chainsaw and book of the dead.

If you are a fan of the "Evil Dead" films, you don't want to miss this opportunity to catch the stage musical while it's here in town. The people putting it on have a real love for what they are doing and it shines through all the blood and gore. And for Ash's sake, sit in the front row WITHOUT a poncho and get yourself splattered in blood.

The play runs tonight through Halloween. For more information, visit the Theater Alive website. And be watching Evening Edition next week for a behind the scenes glimpse of the production.

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