Evil Dead: The Musical

If dancing zombies and blood by the gallon appeal to you, this may be your dream musical

Arts Review

Evil Dead: The Musical

Salvage Vanguard Theater, through Oct. 31

Running time: 2 hr

I remember seeing one of the Evil Dead movies – I believe the first one – many years ago and not being particularly impressed. But it's been said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, and the original in the series spawned two presumably equally evil sequels and now this musical, surely one of the campiest, over-the-top pieces in the history of musical theatre. Of course, the opportunities for camping it up are rife in the horror genre: really stupid, really horny teens; empty cabins in the woods; books of the dead; chainsaws, axes, and blood; and zombies, of course. Plenty of zombies.

Before I say more, I need to state for the record that this Salvage Vanguard Theater-Doctuh Mistah co-production had massive sound problems on the night I saw it. Though all the actors were mic'd, I had problems understanding what was being sung over the threepiece orchestra playing offstage even during the first chorus number. But it wasn't just background noise that bothered. When spoken lines were delivered, I still had difficulty understanding them, and that difficulty was compounded when characters turned into zombies, because they talked in zombielike voices and didn't pay needed attention to enunciating what they were saying. Fortunately, someone (my bet is director Michael McKelvey) managed to solve the sound problems by the second act, and, thus, the experience became considerably more enjoyable, if tainted by the experience of the first act.

I'm uncertain whether it's a tribute to the actors, the simplicity of the script, or the conventions of the genre that, despite the myriad sound challenges, I had no trouble following the story: Horny teens break into a cabin, find a book of the dead, and turn into zombies. Limbs are severed, heads chopped off, blood squirted in gallons from necks ... hacked off hands, stab wounds, exposed intestines. There's so much blood that a special "splash zone" is provided, so if you want to get soaked in the stuff, here's your chance. At a couple of points, I actually saw a hose being raised from the cellar, spraying the red stuff all over the audience. I am somewhat unsure why anyone would find this appealing, but the first three or four rows were filled, and everyone sitting there seemed to find the dousing quite enjoyable.

Blood aside, the second act was considerably more effective, not because anyone seemed to be doing anything radically different but simply because I could understand most everything that was being said and sung. Actually, I'm not even certain it was understanding so much as it was tremendously, albeit somewhat pervertedly, entertaining to listen to songs with titles such as "Ode to an Accidental Stabbing" and "Blew That Bitch Away" and to watch a zombie do a soft shoe, a bunch of zombies do a very Rocky Horror-inspired dance to a song called "Do the Necronomicon," and a man wearing a chainsaw on one hand and carrying a gun in the other adroitly slay zombie after zombie. So if any of that or lyrics such as, "You goddamn bitch, you fuckin' stabbed me," appeal to you, then you've found your dream zombie musical.

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Evil Dead: The Musical, Salvage Vanguard Theater, Doctuh Mistah Productions, Michael McKelvey

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