What happens when two testosterone-fueled college couples and one bookish sister get trapped in a remote log cabin in the woods? Throw in a chubby, foul-mouthed redneck, a babelicious scientist and her nerdy boyfriend, a talking moose head, a severed hand, a chainsaw, an ax, and a Spinal Tap-sized stone bridge and you have the campy, schlocky, silly, and utterly gross-out Off-Broadway gore-fest fun of Evil Dead -- The Musical.
Part Rocky Horror, part Little Shop of Horrors, this zombie slasher flick turned musical comedy is based on Sam Raimi's '80s horror films, and it's a show you can treat your teenagers to and both leave with smiles on your face and splattered stage blood on your shirts.Okay, so the music is weak; four credited writers couldn't find one -- pardon the pun -- killer song? There's nothing remotely as memorable as "Suddenly Seymour" or "Time Warp," although "Do the Necronomicon" tries hard to achieve classic theme status. (Can't anyone write a memorable musical anymore?)
Credit three-time Tony award winner Hinton Battle (co-director, choreographer) with making it all work; this is not a show that features dazzling voices nor great songs and he knows it. Most dance and music numbers keep it simple -- but clever, almost vaudeville -- while he allows his capable actors and the tortured lyrics to do the campy expository talkin'.
And the eight-cast crew works hard and the laughs come easily and are never forced. They're having too much fun, and that helps whip the audience into a frenzy with plenty of mugging, crude innuendos, eye-popping T-and-A, and so much blood that at intermission the ushers pass out clear plastic hooded raincoats for folks in the first six rows.
Lone Canadian Ryan Ward as Ash, the S Mart super employee, is your chainsaw-wielding hero. He's quite likeable, with great stage presence and a fine voice. Ditto René Klapmeyer as the slutty, sultry ingénue in the first act and the bookish professor in the second act; she offers plenty of Victoria's Secret moments with a long, lean body, push-up bra, and graceful stage movement. She has the most Broadway credits of any of the actors here.
The set design is clever with its tacky cabin in the woods filled with hilarious cardboard-like moveable props. And the blood-soaked red and fogged lighting direction makes the most of the limitations of the size of this converted movie theater stage. It's almost like an adult Scooby Do cartoon-rendered experience.
My advice is, book the late night Friday or Saturday show. - Dusty Wright
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency!