In the pages of the forthcoming issue of the Metro Times, we have an interview with George Reinblatt, the Canadian comedian who had the incredibly ludicrous idea of converting the first two Evil Dead movies into a musical. Check it out – Reinblatt is engaging in conversation, and we also got a quote or two from Bruce “Ash” Campbell on the subject. We don’t want to give too much away, but Reinblatt told us that, “I got thinking, what is the most ridiculous movie that could possibly be turned into a musical. It turned out it was this one. The other thing is, if you really break it down, there are so many weird things that happen: he saw off his hand and it comes back to life, the whole cabin comes to life, stuff like that, that translates onto the stage.”
Until you see the show, the lingering thought remains; how the hell can Evil Dead work in a musical format? There’s so much about it that doesn’t make sense. OK, the second movie was packed with whacky humor, but the first one was pure melodrama. If there is humor, it’s unintentional and simply the result of no budget and schlocky effects.
After seeing the show, allow me to inform those that haven’t that it makes perfect sense. In fact, in the hands of Reinblatt, a solid cast and crew, it seems almost crazy that it wasn’t a musical from the very beginning. Almost.
Let’s kick off with the story. If you have seen the first two movies, you’ll know that they barely work together at all. Evil Dead 2 sees Ash going back to the cabin from the first film seemingly oblivious about what happened before. In fact, Sam Raimi wanted to start the movie with a recap of what happened in the first film but couldn’t get the rights to the footage so he re-shot it with different characters and cast. It makes for a weird flow, to say the least. Reinblatt knew that when he put the musical together, and through a combination of creative license and in-jokes (Jake: “I was supposed to out here with my wife Bobby-Joe but since that Cheryl girl got attacked by the trees, that would seem pretty redundant.”), a cohesive plot holds the whole thing together.
So five kids go to a cabin in the woods to get drunk and have lots of sex. They find the Necronomicon and a cassette player, read/play it and unwittingly unleash evil spirits who then set about possessing everyone. Heads roll, Ash loses his hand, you know the drill. Meanwhile, another young girl is on her way to the cabin to finish her father’s work with the book of the dead, her fiancé and a hillbilly called Jake tagging along. By the time they get there, everyone but Ash is dead or undead. More chaos ensues. Ash has a chainsaw attached to his arm, blood, chaos, curtain.
Steve Carson has the unenviable job of playing Ash, which basically means that he’s doing his best Bruce Campbell impersonation throughout. Cue more in-jokes. (“Shut up, Burn Notice,” says the Scotty character.) Carson does a great job too. We kinda believe that he’s Ash, and the fact that his singing voice is ropey at times really only helps the character. The rest of the cast are wonderful too. Heather Sejnow, playing Ash’s sister Cheryl (the tree victim), is terrifying way before she winds up possessed and in the cellar. David Schoen is hilarious as hillbilly Jake. That guy has a face built for theatre, and quite the voice too. “Don’t talk to the audience,” he says at one point. “They’re sloppy drunk.”
Special mention also has to go to Kelly Klopocinski who plays two roles – the trashy and doomed Shelly in act one, and stubborn heroine Annie in act two. She played them so well that this writer didn’t realize it was the same person until the very end. Fair play, her knack for cheeky humor, the ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ amidst the chaos, was glorious. At one point, blood is gushing out of the cellar with fire hose intensity, and Klopocinski is rubbing herself with it like some sort of dirty car washer. It just works.
There is a lot of blood. Upon entering the theater, the first sign is that the ushers are telling us to keep our cell phones covered. The first three rows of seats are covered with trash bags. Something is going to happen. The cast revel in the blood, which gushes liberally. When somebody gets stabbed in the chest, buckets of blood will inexplicable come from every wall. It’s insane, and hella fun.
This being a musical, the whole thing would fail miserably if the songs weren’t good. In fact, they’re very, very funny and remarkably catchy too. The closest reference is the Rocky Horror Show. The slow songs are tongue-in-cheek, and “Do the Necronomicon” is this show’s “Timewarp,” dance moves and all. Ash and Linda’s “Houseware’s Employee” ballad is amazing, as is Annie's tragic “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons.”
The show runs through next Saturday so be sure to catch it at the City Theatre, inside of the Hockeytown Café. There really is no better way to spend a blood-soaked evening in Detroit./p>