As a longtime horror-nerd, I’ll admit I scoffed a little when I first saw a flier for “Evil Dead: the Musical.”
I wondered how could any such production do justice to one of the most iconic film series in all of horror history, Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead”, “Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn” and “Army of Darkness”?
That was until shortly after I sat down in the front row of the Black Box Theater in the Mertes Center for the Arts on Nov. 17 to see the very last show of the production’s run. What unfolded in front of me was a wild phantasmagoria of song, dance, slapstick, puns, fake blood and swearing that I was not prepared for in the slightest.
And I absolutely loved it. The Las Positas College community should be proud of this production.
The show very cleverly mirrors the structure of the film series itself. The first act of “Evil Dead: the Musical” largely covers the first film in which a small group of college student friends descend on a deserted, isolated cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying, only to be possessed by demons and destroyed one by one.
The second act covers the events of the second film (which itself features a truncated remake of sorts of the events of the first film), in which a new group of characters with a connection to the isolated cabin happen upon the aftermath of the events of the first movie. The show ends with some nods to the third film, “Army of Darkness,” which gave the series a medieval twist.
Jared Sigman had his work cut out as the film series hero Ash Williams, department store employee and reluctant fighter of kandarian demons. There’s a mighty big chin to fill to take on the role originated by cult movie legend Bruce Campbell, but Sigman did so admirably, channeling Campbell’s vulnerable machismo by way of the physicality and vocal inflections of Jim Carrey.
I cannot name every single person associated with this production of “Evil Dead: the Musical” who is worthy of praise, because to do so would take up an extreme amount of limited print space. But, in art, as in life, it’s easy to tell when people are giving something their all — and it was clear from the moment the play began that the afore- mentioned cast, crew, live band, director Titian Lish, and every- one involved with this production put some love into the show. And it showed. Big time.
Whether it was the creative use of lighting, the audience interaction, the wordplay, the jokes — the show worked beautifully. A rousing song on the virtues of “Good Ol’ Reliable Jake,” a character from the series’ second film was an absolute show-stopper from Erynn Pascual, who landed a mid-show ovation.
The set design and mise en scène were obviously put together with some thought — blink and one would miss a “Les Misérables” poster on the wall that turns evil in act two. A strategically placed moose’s head mounted on the wall comes into play. A character thumbs through a copy of Campbell’s autobiography “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor” early in the show.
And there was enough Sam Raimi and State of Michigan- centric humor sprinkled through- out the show — jokes about Raimi’s Spider Man series, “Xena: Warrior Princess” from the Raimi-produced TV show joined the chorus at the end of the show, even the pinker-than-pink color of the fake blood matched the look of the blood in “Evil Dead II”.
To put it succinctly, the show was, as Ash Williams would say, “groovy.”
Photo Courtesy of Aaron Burg @latentimagephoto.