By Barry Reszel
When the State of Colorado amends its laws to make marijuana use mandatory, Evil Dead, the Musical may finally find a venue with an appropriately appreciative audience.
Until then, musical theatre patrons are urged to shun this show in much the same way five college students ought to avoid a spring break trek to a haunted, secluded cabin in the woods. Because, really, no good can come from it.
This failed 1980s Sam Raimi slasher-movie spoof (created by George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Melissa Morris and Christopher Bond) is filled with overplayed gags, bad puns, blatant sexism, foul language and a little skin. Add to that an absolutely horrendous opening night sound system and use of recorded tracks instead of live music.
Evil Dead‘s appeal is limited to seventh grade boys who could somehow scrounge tickets and make their way to the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place without their parents finding out.
A full synopsis of the plot and history of this 2007 Canadian musical is hound here.
In the Broadway in Chicago/Starvox Entertainment production, part of a national, non-Equity tour, an ensemble of nine gifted, young actors adequately plow their way through their transformation to zombies and ensuing bloodshed. Neither David Sajewich as lead camper Ash nor Demi Zaino as his bookworm sister Cheryl (who garners a few laughs) really show off their full potential, though the snippet of a song, “It Won’t Let Us Leave,” gives a glimpse of Zaino’s resonant voice.
Andrew Di Rosa stands out for his terrific vocals, the only one of the bunch who could consistently win the cast’s battle with microphones that alternately didn’t work or blasted out cavernous reverberation.
Jeff winner Callie Johnson is just so much better than the busty bimbo she plays here (her performance in Drury Lane’s Jeff-nominated Next to Normal comes immediately to mind). So, too, is triple threat Julie Baird who jumped in for Summer Naomi Smart as Elly May at Theatre at the Center’s Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical when Smart was injured.
Some well-executed choreography in the show’s final numbers, particularly in the amusing, “Do the Necronomicon,” along with a few blood spatters, show some of the fun that might have been. But these examples really fit in the “too little, too late” category.
Evil Dead is billed as “the next Rocky Horror” and played more than 300 performances in Canada. Then again, Porky’s grossed more than $105 Million; Fast Times at Ridgemont High, nearly $30 Million.
The key to good parody is a combination of terrific writing and clever staging. Neither is present here.
Perhaps this ill-fated staging points out the need for newer works with meaning to provide a growing cadre of talent appropriate showcases for their immense ability and training. One can hope that Broadway in Chicago’s highly anticipated Broadway preview of Amazing Grace, coming in October, will deliver. On the comedy side, a terrific regional premiere of Broadway-snubbed Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at Theatre at the Center (read the review here) already does.
Anyone still in doubt about whether to see this Evil Dead might consider two titles in the songbook: The show’s final piece, “Blew That Bitch Away,” and the first act’s “What the Fuck Was That?”
Funny, but most patrons opening night walked out asking that very question.
Broadway in Chicago’s “Evil Dead: the Musical” plays at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Town Place, 175 E. Chestnut, Chicago, through Oct. 12. Tickets are $29.99 – $67.99 with premium tickets in the “splatter zone.” More information and tickets are available at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.