It’s part “Rocky Horror Show” and part “Little Shop of Horrors,” with a distinct twist of its own. More important, it’s a bloody good time. “Evil Dead 1 & 2: The Musical” could become one of those quirky musical hits that catch on with a target audience and just keep going forever.
Tuner’s based on films that Sam Raimi, now best known for the “Spider-Man” pics, made in 1981 and 1987. They’re vintage examples of the “college kids in a deserted cabin” saga in which frat-house humor and slasher carnage go hand in hand. Think “Animal House” meets “Friday the 13th” and you won’t be far off.
A pair of young Canadians — comedy writer George Reinblatt and theater director Christopher Bond — somehow envisioned this gorefest as a musical and succeeded in landing the rights from Raimi.
They first mounted it in Toronto’s Tranzac Club — a rough-and-ready after-hours spot — for what was supposed to be a brief run in summer 2003. It wound up taking off and selling out for months to a largely collegiate audience of repeat attendees.
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Fans of the films, called Dead-ites, chant their favorite lines as eagerly as any “Rocky Horror” devotee.
The original production was fun but slapdash. Producers Jeffrey Latimer and Anne Fitzgerald took it under their wing and helped it acquire a bit more polish — but, mercifully, not too much.
The show’s currently delighting the crowds at Montreal’s Cabaret du Plateau in a production that knows when to be slick and when to be sloppy; therein lies its major appeal.
The story hinges on the discovery of a 13th century Book of the Dead that has the power to bring a frightening horde of Candarian Demons to life. They all look suspiciously like the zombies from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” but hey, that’s part of the fun.
Our horny college kids barely have time to discover the bedrooms in their hideaway cottage before blood starts spurting and the bodies begin to pile up. Yes, there’s even a chainsaw, which hacks off heads and hands in between (and sometimes during) the musical numbers.
Reinblatt’s lyrics are clever (you gotta love a guy who rhymes “Abercrombie” with “zombie”), and his book also features its share of zingy lines. Typical is the moment when Ash, our hero, is obliged by the plot to use a chainsaw to chop off his right hand but first offers it a farewell salute: “You got me through more Friday nights than I’d care to admit.”
The music by Reinblatt, Bond, Frank Cipolla and Melissa Morris is cheerfully derivative but also features some tricky contrapuntal sections that lift it above the ordinary. And there’s even the obligatory act two dance craze “Do the Necronomicon.”
Thesps are bigger on energy than finesse, but that’s one of this show’s charms. It could work with any group of bright young things willing to put the pedal to the metal. Ryan Ward, Kylee Evans, Matt Olmstead and Danielle Meierhenry are particularly good at setting the right demented tone.
Director Bond has done a fairly clever job of moving things along, but there are still places where momentum sags; “Evil Dead” could lose about 10 or 15 minutes without feeling any pain.
The eventual success of “Evil Dead 1 & 2: The Musical” will depend on where it plays and how it’s marketed. In the right hands, it could easily become a hit with the crowd who found “Bat Boy” a bit too tame but may be willing to take a wild and undead walk on the dark side of “Avenue Q.”