December 10, 2012

Evil Dead: The Musical is High-Energy & Low-Brow (a Las Vegas Horror Honeymoon Report)

If you find yourself in Las Vegas, no self-respecting horror fan has any excuse to miss EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL.

This singing, dancing, and swearing Sin City production of the musical based on Sam Raimi's horror film series is currently being staged at the V Theater by the twisted folks at Sirc Michaels Productions. Bringing together the minimalist elements of a indie black box theatre with a sexy script, inventive sets and props, and comedy that's true to the gore and slapstick of its source material, Evil Dead: The Musical in Las Vegas is a must for any Evil Dead fan. Every Friday and Saturday, it will splatter you with blood and swallow your soul -- because deadites don't spit.

Read on for our full review of the show!

The Las Vegas production of Evil Dead: The Musical truly caters to fans of the movies. The story is a remix of iconic elements from Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness and is cut deep with in-jokes. In it, two young couples -- Ash (Ben Stobber) and Linda (Sarah Willick) & Scott (Brian "Mickey" Roark) and Shelly (Nicole Unger) -- along with Ash's sister Cheryl (Lorie Palkow) all head out to an old cabin for some fun in the woods. As these things tend to go, great evil is awakened when the kids accidentally read from the Necronomicon and summon some singing, dancing candarian demons. With his friends either dying off or becoming possessed during a series of comedic musical numbers, the arrival of the bumbling redneck Jake (John Tomasello) and sexy archaeologist Annie (Nicole Unger playing double-duty) prompts Ash to grab his boomstick and become a hero with the chainsaw arm in order to send those deadites back to hell. Hail to the king, baby.

Evil Dead: The Musical is by no means a lavish production when compared to some of the  luxuriously costly shows available in Vegas. The sets are minimalistic, the makeup effects are remarkably cheesy at times, and it's clear that some of the cast are up-and-coming actors still gaining experience with musical theater -- but none of this is a bad thing. Evil Dead: The Musical takes the show back to the down-and-dirty, not-always-so-perfect roots of the Sam Raimi movies, and it's exactly this charming lack of polish that gives it a home-grown atmosphere that is hard to find in the glittered-up neon pleasure world of Las Vegas. The entire cast and crew of Evil Dead: The Musical hit the stage with gusto to deliver a fully immersive comedy experience that's as high-energy as it is low-brow.

Above all, Evil Dead: The Musical's crowning success is the way it lets the audience become a part of the show. "First of all, the production in Vegas breaks the 4th wall," boasts director/producer Sirc Michaels. "The actors at moments interact directly with the audience. The audience is encouraged to yell, interact, and have a good time." Indeed, some of the funniest moments my wife and I had attending Evil Dead: The Musical were when actors deviated from the script to engage with the audience, take jabs at them, or find unexpected ways to drench them in blood. Oh yes, the blood! Evil Dead: The Musical showers 20 gallons of blood on the ticket holders lucky enough to buy seats in the Splatter Zone. It is truly, as Michaels describes it, "a no-holds-barred shower in blood. People leave red from head to toe." Since the show began last year, Michaels estimates they've shed "between 2500 and 3000 gallons of blood" in total.

Aside from the blood, several cast players deserve particular kudos. Although no one can match the pure charisma of Bruce Campbell, Ben Stobber brings commendable machismo and charm as an even more tongue-in-cheek Ash. Meanwhile, John Tomasello completely steals the show as Jake. The only real shame is that he's not in more of the musical. This guy could carry the whole production.

Some of the cast are better actors than singers, however. As Cheryl, for example, Lorie Palkow is great as an impish demon, but her songs are hard to hear. I don't know if its the theatre acoustics, the audio mix, or her singing voice, but too much of what she (and other actors) sing is somewhat unintelligible.

Ironically, it was the musical element of Evil Dead that was the only thing leaving me wanting. Although Evil Dead: The Musical is clearly written with a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware attitude that I tend to enjoy (see my review of Toxic Avenger: The Musical), only a few songs really hit their mark with this reviewer. While songs like "Cabin in the Woods" and the macabre tango "What The Fuck Was That?" clearly let the audience know they're in for some purposely cheesy fun, other songs like "Do the Necronomicon" feel like clearly-manufactured efforts to re-create some kind of Rocky Horror cult status. Unlike Rocky Horror's music and songbook, that of Evil Dead: The Musical are not particularly catchy or memorable. Even heard on the official original cast recording, I find the songs hit and miss, so take that for what it's worth. Out of the Evil Dead: The Musical 4D experience, I found myself much more interested in the comedy and the effects than the songs.

Although I wasn't wowed by the music, the Las Vegas run of Evil Dead: The Musical has plenty to like: severed heads, plenty of laughs, chainsaws, guns, demons, dancing corpses, and sexy girls who become more naked with each scene. It's indie-vibe and passionate performances were some consolation for not getting Splatter Zone seats, but anyone planning on hitting this horror show off the strip better not make the same mistake. 

If you go (and by Bruce Campbell's mighty chin you should go), go to get bloody!