The Evil Dead movie was made on a shoestring budget and there's no denying its cult classic status, spawning two sequels and countless rip-offs. I initially thought that a musical adaptation would be sacrilege. Then I considered that Evil Dead 2 was actually a parody of the first film and Army of Darkness had hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) spewing one liners amidst Three Stooges-type humor, so why not a musical comedy? Garnering both Raimi and Campbell's seal of approval, Evil Dead: the Musical was born. The musical has been shown in Toronto, New York and Dallas, and this group in Bend takes on the project with plenty of gusto.
Taking the plot ingredients of five college students in a secluded cabin, a Book of the Dead, evil spirits, murderous trees and a hero wielding both shotgun and chainsaw and turning it into a musical is a frightening task in and of itself, but who knew it could be this funny? Any Bruce Campbell fan will be pleased knowing that the hero is parodied as much as in the original movies. The musical takes creative liberty with the plot line of the film, mixing together the characters and concepts of all three, as well as changing sequences and adding characters and background history for the sake of the stage and comedic intent. The songs are smart, raunchy and comical, including the catchy opener, "Cabin in the Woods," as well as the hilarious "What the F**k Was That?"
Co-director Chris Kas saw The Evil Dead at age 13 and it inspired him to become a filmmaker. He too considered the movie untouchable until he read the script for the musical and couldn't turn it down. You can see why - it's hilarious from start to finish and bursts with Grand Guignol energy with the help of a great cast.
Althought I only saw a rehearsal, the R-rated dialogue was nonetheless delivered in supremely capable hands, particularly by Todd Hanson (Ash). Vanessa Farnsworth (Annie) has strong stage presence and a great singing voice while Hector Ariceaga (Scott) is all enthusiasm. Most notably Jenny Mackenzie (Cheryl) has a field day spouting off demonic bad puns from the cellar and Brad Knowles (Ed) delivers the best comic timing in a very well played and subdued role. They all seem to have a handle on all things evil and dead.
The crew also proves valuable to the production with Natalie Skeen styling a great wardrobe (and also playing a tree!) and sound guy Greg Thoma had about eight gazillion cues and still seems to be getting a kick out of the production, as he laughs at all the jokes. The dual direction seems a perfect fit with Klein's background in stage and Kas' in film. Yet no production is without its ups and downs, as Kas told me they had to find a late replacement to play the role of Linda.
"Erin Barbot walked into the theater on Friday looking for acting work, new in town. We auditioned her Saturday and cast her right away. She was there Sunday painting the set and learning the songs at the same time," says Kas.
Clearly, Barbot is a quick study, fitting seamlessly into the production.
I had a blast watching this rehearsal and knowing with all the chainsaws buzzing, blood spurting, demon killing, and shotgun blazing going live for opening night, I'd be back next week. Kas assures me that when the show opens, there will be plenty of blood-drenched demon killings set to the campy songs and bad puns. It's great to have something this cool and edgy in Bend and it seems that Kas agrees.
"I think Bendites are ready for this kind of theater. Whether you are familiar with Sam Raimi's cult horror flicks or not you will be entertained," he says. "Blood, demons and dance numbers tell this comedic horror tale just in time for the haunting season."
Evil Dead: The Musical
Playing October 1-31, 2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette Ave. $20/adults, $18/students, seniors. Tickets at 2ndstreettheater.com or 312-9626.