Music by Frank Cippola, Christopher Bond,
Melissa Morris, and George Reinblatt
Directed by Christopher Bond
Music Direction by Arron Eyre
Choreographed by Stacey Renee Maroske
At Broadway Playhouse, Water Tower Place in Chicago.
A chainsaw-ripping, blood-soaking good time.
Evil Dead: The Musical will be playing at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place for a very limited engagement, only playing until October 12. Opening in Toronto in 2003, Evil Dead has performed at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, and spent some time off-Broadway at New World Stages in 2006. It is currently on its North American tour, with a short stint in Chicago. This is a non-Equity show.
Since I was a young boy I’ve sat up at night and wondered, “What would it be like if my favorite elements of horror movies were put on stage in a grand standing, campy, bloody musical display?” Turns out it’s even better than I imagined. Now I should preface by saying that this is not for all audiences. Definitely not a kid-friendly production. Vulgar language, sexual themes, blood, violence, elements of horror. No, no…this is for audiences who can handle and even delight in these themes. Who would love this play, you might ask? Horror fans, lovers of camp, those not easily offended, those who enjoy very dark humor, and I mean no offense when I say this, but for the most part younger people.
We all know the story. Boy gets job at supermarket. Boy meets girl. Boy takes girl and other college-aged friends to abandoned cabin in the woods for spring break. Shenanigans ensue. It’s a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme. A classic horror trope. I don’t want to give too much away for people who haven’t seen the films, so I’ll keep this brief. Although, I do highly suggest seeing the films. The production plays fantastic homage and the story is even better when you can see how well they translated the semi-serious campy gore flicks into this ridiculous stage production. The story follows Ash (Ashley) Williams, his girlfriend Linda, his little sister Cheryl, his best friend Scott, and Scott’s “special friend” Shelly. They are preparing for a week of fun, debauchery, and relaxation, but the Candarian demons released from the Necronomicon (or Book of the Dead) have no intention of letting that happen. After unwittingly unleashing evil upon the world, Ash must do whatever he can to stop the evil and banish them back to hell, even if that means causing harm to those he loves. The only problem is that the pages which can stop the evil just so happen to be missing from the book, and are in fact in the hands of the daughter of the man who owns that abandoned cabin. That’s right, his daughter, and she’s on her way to the cabin only to find Ash in the middle of fighting the Evil Dead, surrounded by blood, with a lot to explain.
The role of Ash is being masterfully fulfilled by David Sajewich, a Chicago based actor previously in Les Miserables at Drury Lane. He really emulated the character quite well. Beginning the show naive and a little cowardly, and ending with the charm and confidence that many of us have come to expect from Bruce Campbell himself (Ash from the Evil Dead films as well as Sam Axe on the popular show Burn Notice). His sister Cheryl is brought to us by Demi Zaino, a lovely young actress. She did very well playing such a frustrating character. Ash’s girlfriend and co-worker, Linda, was played by Julie Baird. A kind and somewhat free-spirited girl. His best friend Scott, played by Craig Sclavi, is the perfect rendition of the jerk friend. Scott’s ditzy girlfriend Shelly as well as the brilliant Annie (the daughter of the man who owns the cabin), are both played by Callie Johnson. What a great role, don’t you think? To be able to play the sweet, ditzy girl as well as the cold, brilliant young woman. Difficult, though. Very good work. Other roles, such as the local woodsman Jake (humorously played by Andrew Di Rosa) as well as Ed, the pushover boyfriend of Annie (Ryan McBride), were also very well represented.
The sets were very well done. The cabin, looking like any cabin should, was filled with the taxidermy bodies of woodland critters, weapons, and ugly furniture. Mixing elements of very realistic sets with ridiculous concepts (cardboard cars and talking moose heads), this design is a delight in itself. The shining piece of this, I feel, was the choreography. Conceptually speaking, when you’re making a satirical production, you need to keep an almost cartoon-like element to the dances and fights, and this did just that. If you don’t feel like the dancing is all I’m cracking it up to be, just wait until the second act when you see the bloody, brilliant, and fantastic spectacle that is “Do the Necronomicon”, which brings me to the music itself. So well done. Elements of classic musical theater blended with both old and new styles of rock and roll, hilarious lyrics that stick in your head well after the show has ended, and dozens of references (my fellow Rocky Horror fans will enjoy a little one).
Yes, as an avid fan of obnoxious productions and bad horror movies, I say Evil Dead: The Musical was amazing. Now I don’t think everyone should rush to see it, because I can tell you that if you think you won’t enjoy it, you’re probably right. I had the joyous opportunity to sit in the splatter zone, where I as well as the next 4 rows behind me got covered in fake blood. Cherry flavored fake blood! If you don’t want to be covered in fake blood, I highly advise that you don’t sit in the Splatter Zone. Now on the other hand, if you like that sort of thing and want to experience the blood almost like he’s chopping YOU up with a chainsaw, then I highly advise that you pay the extra few bucks to become part of the show and sit in the Splatter Zone. I highly recommend this production to my fellow fans of camp and carnage who just so happen to also love singing and shotguns. It’s quite an experience!
By: John Stuckert
Email: [email protected]
Reviewed on: September 24, 2014
For more info checkout the Evil Dead page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Broadway Playhouse, Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St, Chicago, IL, www.broadwayinchicago.com or (312) 977-1710 for tickets. Tickets range from $29.99-67.99. Playing Tuesday through Sunday from September 23-October 12, 2014. Shows at 7:00 and 10:30 PM on Friday and Saturday. 3:00 PM matinee on Sunday with no evening show. 7:30 PM, Run Time: 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission, shows Tuesday through Thursday evenings.