'Evil Dead The Musical' Reanimates For Halloween
Theater Alive Moves To Larger Venue At 10th Avenue Theater
"I'm looking for someone to solve our problems. Someone to come in and just be Ash," Allen said as he was auditioning actors for his first staging of "Evil Dead The Musical."
And Allen found his Ash in Billy Blair: "He's a perfect Ash. Just down to the T."
"I am going to be playing Ash, who was originally played by the legendary Bruce Campbell. Wow, what's not going to be fun about playing Ash?" Blair said when he was initially cast in the role.
Inspired by Sam Raimi’s splatter gore films -- "The Evil Dead" (1981), "Evil Dead 2" (1987), and "Army of Darkness" (1992) -- the musical play focuses on Ash, an S-Mart employee and college student who spends spring break with some buddies.
Ash's friend Scotty (played by Chance McManus) says early in the play, "What could possibly go wrong with five college students breaking into an old secluded cabin in the woods where no one knows where we are?"
Of course things go horribly wrong when they discover the Necronomicon Ex Mortis or the Book of the Dead, and Ash has to fight off his demonically possessed friends.
"This production is a combination of 'Evil Dead 1' and '2' with a lot of lines from 'Army of Darkness' thrown in which is the third film in the Evil Dead series," Blair said.
And all done as a horror musical comedy.
Last year, Allen was given the Cabaret space at the Tenth Avenue Theater: "The room we are doing this in is a small room. It only seats 50 people so it's very small and intimate."
When he looks at that Cabaret space now, he marvels how he was able to reanimate the dead in such tight quarters.
"I think there might be some blood stains in here somewhere from the splatter zone. I just can’t believe how small it is. You were really a part of the show because the show was like right here, there was nowhere to hide, it was right here in your face."
But now Allen has moved his Theater Alive production onto the main stage at Tenth Avenue Theater and essentially tripled his seating.
"Just having more room we didn’t feel so cramped," Allen said, "The poor actors [last year] had to crawl around backstage literally tunnel you know, climb down and tunnel just to get to a place where they entered from. Now we doubled the size of the splatter zone and tripled the amount of blood and guts we’re gonna throw on people."
Wait a minute. What’s this splatter zone you keep speaking of?
"Okay, the splatter zone is the first three rows of the audience that gets hit with fake blood and fake guts," Allen explained.
Chance McManus plays Scotty and he is one of the actors that gets to soak the audience in blood.
"Usually it’s just a blind spray. I try to get every single person as much as I can. It’s a lot of fun though. Just seeing it. I aim for their face usually because that’s the only place that isn’t covered up. It’s kind of mean but I think it’s funny to me," McManus said.
In fact, you could say he enjoys it.
"Yeah, a little torture," McManus gleefully reports.
"The audience is still close enough, especially the splatter zone where they really feel like they are in the cabin in the woods," Allen said.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the actor playing Ash, that’s Billy Blair.
"After every performance I felt fantastic and it feels even better to do it again," Blair said.
Playing the iconic Ash made memorable in three films by actor Bruce Campbell can be a difficult than playing a character people are unfamiliar with.
"Absolutely more difficult because people expect a certain persona and a certain way about you and to try and emulate that exactly is very difficult," Blair said.
Blair is great and he’s helped by Ash’s famous props.
"We’ve got a chainsaw that was built for us last year," Blair added.
And the man who made that chainsaw is Robert MacKenzie.
"We decided for this show the Evil Dead since there’s a lot of blood splatter and stuff that we should put in a super soaker built into it so it can shoot blood out the front of it," MacKenzie explained.
"So that way when we’re chopping people up on stage we can actually have blood splatter come out of the chainsaw so that’ very cool, and it feels very good" Blair added.
But MacKenzie warned: "Once you get your hand in there on the trigger it becomes part of you. And you become evil."
There is also Ash' Boomstick, which figures prominently in the action and in the dialogue from the play. Take this quotable section from the play and movie.
"You see this? This is my boomstick. It’s a 12 gauge double barreled Remington, S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department, that’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, MI, retails for about $109.95. It’s got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel and a hair trigger. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that."
Sure do, and those props get a lot of use in the show.
"Getting to kill a lot of zombies, deadites, getting to kill a ton of deadites. That’s super fun," Blair told me.
The great thing about the deadites is they seem to keep coming back and in "Evil Dead The Musical," they come back singing.
"I think my favorite part about the Necronomicon is that I get to really harness my demon soul," McManus said.
You too can do the Necronomicon and sit in the splatter zone… if you dare.
The Theater Alive production of “Evil Dead The Musical” opened last night and runs through November 2 at the Tenth Avenue Theater downtown.