It's that time of year again -- time to carve pumpkins, tell scary stories, and jump at thing that go bump in the night! If you're a fan of gory movies and spooky stories looking to add a little musical comedy to your repertoire, Evil Dead the Musical, presented by Emery Entertainment, is a perfect addition to your Halloween celebrations. Inspired by the movie franchise, the musical is a laugh-out-loud, blood-splattered romp that spoofs teen slasher flicks and Broadway with the same barely controlled chainsaw.
Five teens plan to spend their spring break in a secluded cabin in the woods. At the cabin they find an ancient book of spells and a tape recording of the spells, which, naturally, the teens play back. Evil forces are unleashed, body parts are lost, and much blood is spilled before the forces can be corralled, saving humanity. The furiously funny musical gets a few welcome pop culture updates in the company's production, but the story retains its familiar excess and the songs their catchy, pop-infused style.
The quick moving show is as humorously campy as it is horror-story messy, and the capable ensemble works their characters' stereotypical ticks and exaggerations. Trent Mills is quick-witted and inventive as Ash, all while throwing knowing glances to the audience. He's a likable hero, not too smart, but no dummy and quite resourceful. Mills does a great job of telegraphing both humor and punctuation through his frequent interactions with the crowd. Not quite breaking the fourth wall, but testing its strength. The effect works well, particularly when the majority of the audience is well aware of the story.
Saphire Demitro is appropriately snarky and ungainly as kid sister Cheryl, and she's the only one with the instinct to flee. After her transformation to evil, she speaks in bad puns, comic asides, and gleeful curses. Amelia Hironaka is bouncy and likeable as Linda, a role usually played by Michelle Nash. Hironaka is all game, and there was no hesitation or lack of commitment to her portrayal.
Christopher Fulton is a typical insensitive guy as Scott, while Merritt Crews, does double duty as Shelly and the professor's daughter, each a pin-up girl fantasy-like caricature of stereotypical movie females. Andy Ingram is endearingly brow beaten as Ed and quippy with attitude as the Moose, Jonathan Shaboo is country quirky as Jake, complete with a farmer's tan and Kevin Smith demeanor. Finally, Mark Willett lends his voice and a hand as Fake Shemp and the Spirit of Knowby.
The ensemble is clearly comfortable with each other, giving the entire show a playful tone that perfectly aligns with the story and songs. Christopher Bond directs with a sensibility that doesn't know the words "too much," pushing the cast to emphasize the comic potential of every scene, costume piece, and prop. Stacey Renee Maroske uses traditional and contemporary moves in her choreography, adding Beyonce-influenced steps in one spot and a 'Dirty Dancing' life in another. What really helps to take the show over the top, however, are well timed and executed stage effects, puppetry, and animatronics. These additions add much to the visual humor and capriciously enhance the chaotic fun that begins the moment the teens cross the bridge and entire the woods.
Evil Dead the Musical, running through October 22, is not highbrow theater, and the show, liberally drenched in stage blood, is probably not for everyone, but its appeal extends well beyond fans of the franchise. The story is hilarious take on teen horror flicks, the characters are engaging if a bit shallow, and the production is played entirely for laughs. Yes, the songs and jokes are at times sophomoric, but they're easily recognized motifs executed with smart timing and tone. If you enjoy the blood, gore, and guts of the Halloween season as much as you like a good laugh, you'll want to catch this fun production. And if you're really into the spirit of things, make your reservation in the splatter zone.