Shamuu Show rules apply to “Evil Dead! the Musical” – if you’re in the first four rows, you may get wet. Only it’s not salt water – it’s fake blood, spurted from the stage as series hero Ash decapitates his demon-possessed girlfriend.
Sirc Michaels Productions LLC
The groovy horror-comedy has probably splattered blood upon better days
Shamuu Show rules apply to “Evil Dead! the Musical” – if you’re in the first four rows, you may get wet. Only it’s not salt water – it’s fake blood, spurted from the stage as series hero Ash decapitates his demon-possessed girlfriend, as he has been doing on screen since 1981.
“Evil Dead! the Musical” crushed its Vegas premiere in 2011 and 2012 at top regional playhouse the Onyx Theater. In 2012 an open-ended residency was established for the show at the V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops. In 2015 the production relocated to the smaller Tommy Wind Theater. If this sounds like diminishing returns, you could be right. The tickets start at a reasonable-for-Vegas $35, but it may be hard to see where that money went, from the cheesy cardboard sets to the hit-and-miss acting.
Horror buffs know that the original film “The Evil Dead” is not interchangeable with its early 80s contemporaries like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Friday the 13th,” or “Hellraiser.” It’s a very different thing, with a franchise that has grown in stature instead of dwindling. A low-budget mix of gross-out horror and madcap slapstick, you didn’t know whether to laugh or puke. While the other franchises are struggling by on direct-to-Redbox sequels and costly reboots, “Evil Dead” is currently riding high with the acclaimed STARZ TV series “Ash vs. Evil Dead”.
In between the original and STARZ, there was “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness,” films that were more intentionally funny and chiseled Bruce Campbell’s Ash into a one-liner-dropping badass with a chainsaw for a hand. At the height of this refined concept came 2011’s “Evil Dead! the Musical.” By the time it hit off-Broadway to rave reviews, everyone knew what to expect from an “Evil Dead” property – geysers of blood and bile, demons with the voice of Muppets squealing “I’ll swallow your soul!”, and Ash cocking his “boomstick” (aka Remington shotgun) and crooning “Gimme Some Sugar, Baby”.
The songs are pure cheese, but this fits the later period of the series. With titles like “Hail to the King, Baby,” “What the F*** was That?” and “All the Men in my Life Keep Getting Killed by Kandarian Demons,” these ditties are meant to be sung with more ham than a Croque Madame sandwich. The cast careens us through the familiar plot points of the movies. Five teenagers arrive at a cabin in the woods for a party weekend and discover a book of demonic rites. One of the female vacationers gets raped by an animated tree (strap in, folks). The teens become possessed one by one and meet grisly deaths. Ash loses his hand and replaces it with a chainsaw as he morphs into the cross between Elvis, Indiana Jones, and Moe Howard that we know and love.
If you catch the cast on a good night, you’ll have a good time, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise and know what you’re getting yourself into. But as fun as the show can be for the initiated, to others it will look like a high school production with a particularly juvenile sensibility.
How big of a disappointment is this? Campbell and series director Sam Raimi were barely out of high school themselves when they made “The Evil Dead” in 1982. This is the same Sam Raimi that broke box office records directing Tobey Maguire as “Spider Man.” Chew on that fun fact while getting doused with red-dyed corn syrup from your front-row seat.
Verdict: The longest-running version of a camp smash with horror-geek pedigree, “Evil Dead! the Musical” at the Tommy Wind Theater is probably a little past its prime. Still, it’s a natural choice for fans of SPLAT! films who might have missed one of the earlier, better productions.