Review: Evil Dead: The Musical (Starvox Entertainment)

Evil Dead

Five college kids break into an abandoned cabin in the woods. What’s the worst that can happen? Die-hard fans of the Evil Dead trilogy can probably tell you word for word what happens next, but what if this epic tale was told through song? Evil Dead: The Musical, now playing at the Randolph Centre for the Arts, takes us through the storyline of the franchise’s first two films: The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II. This time with a catchy, upbeat song catalogue and fully choreographed dance routines.

Fun fact: this critically acclaimed smash had its humble beginnings at Toronto’s own Tranzac Club as a collegiate workshop production. It has since graced stages in various forms including an off-Broadway spectacle, Las Vegas Ultimate 4D Experience and 2014 North American Tour. Iterations have even popped up Seoul, Tokyo and Madrid. And there’s a good reason why – Evil Dead: The Musical is a deliciously campy, gore-filled musical spectacle that faithfully pays homage to the original cult classic.

Make no mistake, this definitely isn’t “serious theatre”, nor does it ever claim to be.

Instead, it promises to deliver non-stop campy comedy with ridiculously grotesque violence thrown in for good measure. There are off-the-rail sexual innuendos. And fake blood. Surprisingly heartfelt soliloquies. And fake blood. Hilarious yet timely musical numbers. And fake blood. Fake blood and even more fake blood. Yes, there’s so much of the red stuff that it just ends up being comical, which was one of the top reasons why the original Evil Dead was such a hit. And it’s apparent that the playwrights/lyricists were fans of the film, since there are so many iconic quotes from all the movies were peppered throughout the production. (Let’s just say the word “boomstick” came into play more than once.)

I’m a big fan of the franchise – even buying the entire first season of the 2015 TV spinoff, Ash vs. Evil Dead, on iTunes – but I can sincerely state that you don’t have to be familiar with the storyline to enjoy this production.

The writing is exceptional, with a completely self-contained plotline that doesn’t rely on the audience having any prior knowledge of the films to form a cohesive storyline. And while there are many nods to the original, there’s more than enough of a new spin to make this worth seeing. In particular, the humour was updated to include more modern and relevant cultural references as compared to the films that were shot in the 80’s.

What’s most noteworthy about this production is the strength of its musical numbers, including personal favourites “Do the Necronomicon” and “What the F*** Was That!?”. Every song was uniquely different than the others, showcasing a wide range of musical styles and influences. I often found myself subconsciously tapping along to many of the numbers, and when I looked around, I was never alone in doing so.

With any long-running theatrical production, it’s the cast that makes or breaks any given run. The current Toronto cast of Evil Dead: The Musical each brought something unique to the stage, keeping energy levels high throughout the entire two-and-a-half-hour show.

There’s no replacing Bruce Campbell as the quintessential Ash Williams, but Trent Mills performed aptly with such iconic shoes to fill. Mills was charming and relatable, but most importantly, nailed the comedic timing perfectly in his delivery. Other standout stars included Michelle Nash for her powerful vocals and Alexander Braatz for his impeccably precise dancing. But really, there were no weak links whatsoever in the cast.

With clever writing, exceptional production values and a full catalogue of memorable musical numbers, Evil Dead: The Musical is a must-see for die-hard lovers of the franchise and really anybody who’s in the mood for some over-the top, campy, raunchy, gory good fun. Go see this play.

Details

Disclaimer: This show uses strobe lighting, lasers and fog effects. The first few rows are also considered “The Splatter Zone” where audience members are likely to be splattered in fake blood. Mature subject matter. Graphic violence. Viewer discretion is advised.