Continues through July 26 at the Campbell Theatre, Martinez
Michael Scott Wells and Alexandra Creighton scare off Candarian demons in Evil Dead: The Musical, a Willows Theatre production at the Campbell Theatre in Martinez. Photos courtesy of Willows Theater.
Singing and bleeding in horror musical
Adding the words “the musical” to a title is, in some cases, automatically funny. ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore: The Musical. Mein Kampf: The Musical. Spider-Man: The Musical. (Don’t laugh – that last one is real and coming to Broadway soon.)
So already, Evil Dead: The Musical has a leg up in the laugh department, albeit a dismembered, bloody leg.
Sam Raimi’s early ’80s gore fest splattered across movie and video screens through much of the decade, lending it cult status, spawning two sequels and making a sort-of star of Bruce Campbell and a budding blockbuster director of Raimi (who would go on to direct the Spider-Man franchise).
Whenever the word “cult” is attached to a movie, the musical stage version can’t be far behind. About two years ago, a group of Canadian kids – George Reinblatt (book, lyrics, music), Christopher Bond (music and additional lyrics), Frank Cipolla (music), Melissa Morris (music) and Rob Daleman (music) – decided to camp up the already campy comedy-horror film and turn it into an all-singing, all-dancing zombie fest. The show was a hit in Toronto, had a run off-Broadway and is now back in Toronto.
The musical finally makes it to the Bay Area courtesy of the Willows Theatre Company, who’s producing it in their Campbell Theatre, which is a spiffy cabaret-style space in downtown Martinez. The ironic thing is that years ago, this is the kind of outrageous, sensational show that people would come see in the big, bad city. But now these kinds of shows tend to spring up in the suburbs, and city folk have to make the trek.
Now to the review. In the immortal words of Ash, the hero of Evil Dead: “Yo, she-bitch. Let’s go.”
But wait, before I even get to the actual show, which is fun and amateurish and not as well produced as it should be, I want to commend the Willows for the entire Evil Dead experience. First off, there’s a “splatter zone,” the more expensive first few rows of the theater, where customers get drenched in stage blood (really just pink water, but LOTS of it). You can buy a white T-shirt to wear with the promise that by the end, it will be a red-spattered, customized souvenir tee. You can also buy protective plastic poncho for a buck, but that defeats the purpose of being in the splatter zone, which is almost always sold out. Kids today love their splatter.
Your friendly cocktail waitress will inform you of the special cocktails, most of which have unprintable names and promise to have you on the floor (or thinking this musical is brilliant) in only two shots. You can order meat and cheese trays, nachos and the like, which all contributes to the carnival atmosphere of the show, and that’s just grand.
What’s happening on stage is less grand. Like the movie that inspired it, this musical is meant to be Grade B (or C or D) material that revels in crudeness, silliness and cheap thrills. I get that. And director Jon Tracy’s cast has the requisite exuberance and attitude.
What they don’t have is good music (performed on a tinny, prerecorded soundtrack) or a decent sound system. Complicating the sound issues are the zombie masks the actors wear once they become Candarian demons. The microphones and the full-face masks do not work well together and muddy the sound almost beyond recognition. Any cleverness in the lyrics is mostly obscured. That’s why the show’s mask-free final number, “Blew That Bitch Away,” comes across best — we can hear every word.
Much of the technical attention seems to have been lavished on the gore and the construction of water canons to shoot the spray into the audience. When the spraying isn’t enough, a stagehand (Greg Asdourian), steps out on stage with a powerful water gun and just shoots randomly into the audience. Even those outside the splatter zone are in danger of flying blood.
Full props to Michael Scott Wells, who stars as Ash and channels Bruce Campbell like a pro. He can wield a chainsaw with a severed right hand all while singing and dancing. Top that, Patti LuPone.
In the supporting cast, Corey Lenkner as hillbilly Jake has a great song (“Good Old Reliable Jake,” performed without a mask, by the way), and Lowell Abellon as Ed, sings a woeful number about being a bit-part demon (it’s sort of the “Mr. Cellophane” of the show). Alexandra Creighton also shines as a late-entry love interest for Ash. Her dying ballet, with Ash’s severed hand holding a knife in her back, is priceless.
Clearly the show’s creators were going for something along the lines of The Rocky Horror Show. They even throw in their version of “The Time Warp” called “Do the Necronomicon.” This is no Rocky Horror, but it will do in a pinch.
In case you were wondering, this show is NOT for kids. It has strong language, sex jokes and, of course, gallons of pretend blood. Bring your inner child (or more appropriately, your inner drunk college student), but not your actual child.
Evil Dead: The Musical continues through July 26 at the Campbell Theatre, 636 Ward St., Martinez. Tickets are $30 for the splatter zone, $25 regular. Call 925-798-1300 or visit www.willowstheatre.org for information.