The lights are low, the music’s swelling, and I’ve adjusted my snorkel just in case, which can mean only one thing: it’s time for Screaming in Harmony, where we shine the spotlight on murderous monstrous musical mayhem! Since we’re celebrating remakes all month here at Nightmare On Film Street, tonight’s show is a musical adaptation of a classic horror film that manages to capture the spirit of the original: Evil Dead the Musical.
In case you’re not familiar with the Evil Dead franchise, here’s a quick refresher. Sam Raimi released the original Evil Dead for like, eleven dollars in 1981. The low budget splatter film found a cult audience (including Stephen King), leading to a remake/sequel in 1987 with Evil Dead II. Part 2 leaned more heavily into the grim humor, and a lot of it feels like a live action cartoon. It’s one of my personal favorites! After Evil Dead II, leading man Bruce Campbell once again reprised the role of Ash to fight the dark forces in the dark ages with 1992’s Army of Darkness. He fights off an evil doppelgänger and like a million skeletons, then returns to the present to tell everyone else at his job about all the cool stuff he did as a hero.
The series stayed offscreen for a couple decades before being remade as 2013’s Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell would return as Ash in the TV sequel series Ash Vs. Evil Dead. For twenty years, though, if you wanted more Evil Dead content you needed to check the comic book store, GameStop, or your local theatre. Evil Dead The Musical premiered onstage in Toronto in 2003 to instant and well-deserved acclaim. The show fuses the Evil Dead story we all know and love with rock’n’roll, kinetic set design, and more fake blood than you can shake a plastic vampire at. And, most importantly, it’s really good.
THE SHORT VERSION
Five college students (including Ash) head to an old abandoned cabin in the woods for a spring break full of boozin’, bonin’, and bookin’. Their plans unravel though, when they play a recording of a professor reading passages from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis… the Book of the Dead. This unleashes the forces of evil, notably a ton of Candarian demons. The demons possess Ash’s friends, as well as basically any part of the set that can move or talk. Stuffed moose head on the wall? Oh, you know that guy’s got something to say! Will Ash survive the worst spring break ever? How will they tie in bits of Army of Darkness when most of the action takes place at the old abandoned cabin in the woods? Find out by watching Evil Dead the Musical!
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GORE AND SCORE
I’m stoked to have some gore to talk about here! Since Evil Dead the Musical is a stage show, there’s a level of audience interaction not possible in a movie theater. If you go to see Evil Dead the Musial, there’s a really good chance you’re coming home soaked in fake blood. Many performances even make this a part of the draw, offering SPLATTER ZONE seating for an extra fee. Every time I’ve seen this show, I’ve ridden home on a trash bag. There’s so much blood flying around, which is 100% in line with Evil Dead II. Is this the greatest stage show of all time? Well, I’m not really qualified to speak on that. But yes.
The songs of Evil Dead the Musical are more in the Little Shop of Horrors vein than, say, Phantom of the Opera. Most of them are uptempo rock’n’roll tracks, and the lyrics are hilarious. Standout songs include Cabin in the Woods, which sets the stage for everything that happens later, romance ballad Housewares Employee, recurring theme Look Who’s Evil Now, and the nonsensical brag track Good Old Reliable Jake. And that’s just the first act! Act II features songs such as Bit-Part Demon, which is about exactly what it sounds like, All The Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons, which is also about exactly what it sounds like, and Do The Necronomicon, which is “just like the Time Warp, only better!” The original cast recording of Evil Dead the Musical is available on Spotify, if you wanna throw a little drama into your Halloween playlists. Or workout playlists!
The star of Evil Dead the Musical is Ash, which is a tricky role. For a convincing Ash you need what that theatre calls a triple-threat: someone who can sing, be a leading man, and act like his hand is possessed by a Candarian demon. I’m only being a little bit flippant when I say that Ash in Evil Dead the Musical is a harder role than anything in Shakespeare.
While Ash is singing, dancing, and chainsawing across the stage, there’s a lot happening offstage that’s worth noting. For one, there’s the music, which bounces from style to style with ease, and stepping on the wah pedal like somebody ordered a pizza with extra sausage. Then there’s the special effects, like the gallons of blood splashing in the audience’s face and all the moving elements of the set. It’s like the old saying goes: it takes a village to pull off a performance of Evil Dead the Musical.
While there are no plans to make Evil Dead the Musical into a feature film, and Bruce Campbell probably wouldn’t be Ash in it, there are several performances available on YouTube if you want to watch this comedy horror rock’n’roll musical. If you ever get a chance to see it live, though, you simply must. This show is so funny, and the flying fake blood really cranks up the jokes. It’s absolutely worth paying extra to sit in the SPLATTER ZONE and get sprayed down. If you only hear one thing I ever say, it’s “Go see Evil Dead the Musical.” A close second would be “Please go get my epipen.”
Are you one of five college students on your way to an old abandoned cabin in the woods, only to be torn apart by forces of ancient evil? Let us know over on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page. For more reviews, recommendations, and stage blood spraying out across the audience, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.