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A CurtainUp Review
Evil Dead: The Musical

What in the god damn is going on around here? —Jake
It’s an old tale. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times. Boy and his friends go on a week long vacation in the woods. Three friends turn into Candarian demons. One friend is killed by a forest of evil trees. Two demons are killed by their boyfriends respectively, while one stays in the cellar trying to kill everything in sight. Like I said, pretty standard stuff.— Ash

Ryan Ward as Ash in the Evil Dead
Ryan Ward as Ash in The Evil Dead
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The dialogue quoted above can be heard near the beginning of Act II of Evil Dead: The Musical , a new musical (excuse the redundancy) that has come to New York from Canada, and from its original venue the Tranzac Club. But don’t expect this to be as ingratiating as that other recent Canadian import The Drowsy Chaperone.

Evil Dead: The Musical based on the 1981 horror film. The film quickly became a cult favorite among teens and devotees of the slice and dice genre and spawned two sequels — Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992). It wouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that the collaborators George Reinblatt (Book and Lyrics), Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt (Music) are hoping to ensnare the same core audience that propelled the schlocky but enduring The Little Shop of Horrors into a minor musical theater classic.

Whereas The Little Shop of Horrors was a clever mixture of horror, pathos and humor that manifested its perversely dark side rather endearingly, it didn’t mock its source which seems to be exactly what Evil Dead: The Musical is committed to doing. The lame-brained plot finds five horny college-aged friends on spring break looking for secluded weekend in the country. They find themselves in an abandoned cabin in the woods that turns out to be the workplace of a professor who delves into the occult. Of course, they don’t they realize that they are destined to become victims of unleashed evil spirits

Under the desperate direction of Christopher Bond and Hinton Battle (who is also responsible for the frenzied choreography), this musical version attempts to amuse the Evil Dead devotees ( deadheads?) with an abundance of stultifying sex, silliness, and cheesy special effects. This is embroidered with a battery of truly awful songs and dances performed by a rather amateurish but gleefully frenetic company. Atmospherically, the production can be commended for the aroma of pine that wafts through the air, and for the long-awaited finale in which cascades of fake blood from punctured body parts spout into the first few rows of seats ("The Splatter Zone"). I presume that patrons who purchase these plastic covered seats are duly warned, as they are provided with protective ponchos.

Audience members, many of whom at the performance I attended were generations younger than I, screamed with delight and anticipation as the musical progressed through the presumably familiar and incredibly ludicrous plot points, eagerly identifying with the one-dimensional, sex obsessed, characters. The horrors are set in motion when the five teens, Linda (Jennifer Byrne), Cheryl (Jenna Coker), Shelly (Renee Klapmeyer), Ash (Ryan Ward), and Scott (Brandon Wardell) decide to spend the night carousing (to put it politely) in the cabin. They come across a recording that declaims portions of an ancient tome "Necronomicon Ex Mortis" (a 13th century Book of the Dead). This sets in motion the remaining action, mostly concerning the resurrection of demons who take possession of the teens. There is singing aplenty about evil, stabbings, and death, this mouthful "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons," and some dancing, particularly "Do the Necronomicon." This gyrating limb-flailing number is sure to live in memory like "The Continental."

There is some questionable pleasure in watching this motley crew turned one by one into fright-faced demons, but it doesn’t compare to the joy of watching Ash, the lone survivor, taking matters into his own hands (oops, he’s about to lose one of his hands) — then, wield his trusty chainsaw about while singing " I’m not a killer" and hacking, dismembering and decapitating whoever and whatever gets in his way.

The actors have been encouraged to disengage themselves from honest emotions. Therefore the best that can be said about them is that they demonstrate agility in the face of Battle’s shake your bloody booty choreography and marvel at their willingness to participate in this expressly and explicitly tacky enterprise.

The petite and rambunctious Coker stands out as Ash’s sister, who gets attacked and almost torn limb from limb by rampaging trees (that’s right!) and who spends most of the show popping up from a cellar trap door screaming puns and wreaking mayhem. She gets what she deserves from the ensemble with "You Blew That B. . .Away."”

As for the composers, they deserve praise for not trying to compete with such seminal audience-approving dialogue as "What the f. . . was that?", "What a stupid b….," and "You dumb. . ." There is a singing moose head on the wall in the cabin that will bring back fond memories for some of Moose Murders, considered the nadir in dramatic entertainment. Evil Dead Dead:The Musical proves that there is always one step further down you can go.

Some late night performances are scheduled to encourage the second coming of another Rocky Horror Picture Show. But unlike the film it murders, this stage version is unlikely to spawn anything. My companion was a horror buff who took umbrage with the musical’s sophomoric mocking approach and also commented how much better The Lieutenant of Inishmore was at displaying its guts and gore. As for this critic, instead of throwing up my thankfully un-severed hands in dismay as I left the theater, I simply started defensively humming the lovely Stephen Sondheim song "A Weekend in the Country" heading home to a less threatening weekend in my New Jersey version of the country.

Evil Dead: The Musical
Book and Lyrics by George Reinblatt
Music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris, George Reinblatt
Co-Directed by Christopher Bond
Co-Directed & Choreographed by Hinton Battle
Cas: (in order of appearance): Linda /Jennifer Byrne; Cheryl /Jenna Coker';Shelly /Renee Klapmeyer;Ash Ryan Ward/ Scott Brandon Wardell; Ed /Tom Walker; Annie /Renee Klapmeyer; Moose / Tom Walker; Jake / Darryl Winslow; Fake Shemp /Ryan Williams; Spirit Of Knowby / Brandon WardellJennifer Byrne, Jenna Coker, Renee Klapmeyer, Ryan Ward, Brandon Wardell, Tom Walker Darryl Winslow, Ryan Williams
Scenic Design: David Gallo
Costume Design: Cynthia Nordstrom
Lighting Design: Jason Lyons
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald, Kevin Lacy
Special Effects & Makeup Design: Louis Zakarian
Sound Effects Design: Michael Laird
Fight Choreography: B.H. Barry
Band: Conductor/Keyboards-Daniel Feyer. . .Guitar/Banjo-Jake Schwartz. . . Drums/Percussion-Brad Gorilla Carbone
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
New World Stages, Stage 1, 340 West 50th Street, 212/239- 6200
Tickets: Monday — Thursday $26 ti $61, Friday and Saturday: $36 to $66
Monday through Thursday @ 8 PM, Friday @ 7:30 PM and 11 PM, Saturday @ 7 PM and 11 PM
From October 2, 2006; opening November 1
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance October 26, 2006
Last performance: 2/17/07 after 126 regular performances and 34 previews.
Musical Numbers
Additional Music by Rob Daleman. Additional Lyrics by Christopher Bond.
Act One
  • Cabin in the Woods/ Ash, Linda, Scott, Shelly, Cheryl
  • Housewares Employee /Ash, Linda
  • It Won't Let Us Leave/ Cheryl
  • Look Who's Evil Now /Cheryl, Shelly
  • What the . . .? / Ash, Scott, Cheryl
  • Join Us/ Cheryl, Moose, House Spirits
  • Good Old Reliable Jake /Jake, Annie, Ed
  • Housewares Employee (reprise) /Ash, Linda
  • I'm Not a Killer Ash
Act Two
  • I'm Not a Killer (reprise) /Ash
  • Bit-Part Demon / Ed
  • All the Men in My Life/ Annie, Ash, Jake
  • Ode to an Accidental Stabbing /Jake, Annie, Cheryl
  • Do the Necronomicon /Candarian Demons
  • It's Time /Full Company
  • You Blew That B**** Away /Full Company

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