Evil Dead: The Musical (review)

Geek Tragedy Goes to Broadway

Evil Dead: The Musical. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. Well, it is a joke, but it’s meant to be a joke. And it has arrived on Broadway much to the mortification, I’m sure, of the snoots and the snobs, who of course will turn their noses up at an all-singing, all-dancing adaptation of a movie about a man in a cabin in the middle of the deep dark woods who chops off his own demonically possessed hand with a chainsaw after his girlfriend goes waaaay over to the dark side.
The totally pumped crowd that I saw the just-opened show with, though, got it. They understood that it is as much as a parody of musicals — with its goofy lamenting ballads, such as “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” and its hilariously cartoonish set and cheesy costumes, some of which bring to mind an elementary-school pageant — as it is a sendup of horror movies, much as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II was a sendup of his own Evil Dead. The show incorporates elements from all three Ash movies, actually — ED, EDII, and Army of Darkness — which results in uncountable levels of self-references and cheeky ironies folding in on themselves. With its twisting and tweaking of horror clichés — you know, for instance, that the sexpot bimbo will be the first to go undead — and the unique tropes of the Evil Dead flicks, the show is about how we watch beloved movies, how little movies turn into cults. We know how the story will unfold here, generally, so part of the fun becomes watching for the new stuff, the stuff that’s gotten deliberately warped from the movies… which is like how we rewatch favorite movies, familiar with the lay of the land but always on the lookout for something previously unseen.

If you don’t know the story, why the hell are you here? On yet another level, EDTM is a revival meeting for the Bruce Campbell faithful, an act of group worship. And if you’re not a devotee of the man/actor/demigod, a lot of the pleasure to be had here will simply go right by you. Ryan Ward, as Ash, bears a passing remsemblance to Campbell, but thankfully doesn’t attempt an impersonation, except, maybe, in that goofy kind of way that any of we faithful will toss off a “Honey, you got real ugly” or a “Groovy,” as necessary.

If you understand why such things are sometimes necessary, you’re ready for Evil Dead: The Musical. But be aware that this is a show that employs a “blood delivery system consultant,” and that the first several rows of the orchestra are designated the “Splatter Zone.” You will get wet on this ride.

(Evil Dead: The Musical is codirected and choreographed by Hinton Battle, multi Tony winner and choreographer of last summer’s Idlewild. The other codirector is Christopher Bond; book and lyrics are by George Reinblatt. Neither Sam Raimi nor Bruce Campbell have anything to do with this production.)

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