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"Evil Dead: The Musical" at City Theater Review

Review by Peter Schorn and Sue Static

Five kids head deep into the woods for a vacation in a cabin they didn't exactly rent. What could possibly go wrong? That is the question asked in the searing psychological drama wacky schlock musical version of Sam Raimi's classic horror flick Evil Dead entitled, oddly enough, Evil Dead: The Musical, running through October 25 at the City Theater inside Hockeytown in downtown Detroit.

If you're unfamiliar with the story of Evil Dead, it's about S-Mart housewares employee Ash (David Moan); his girlfriend Linda (Allison Huber); his little sister Cheryl (Kimberly Alley); his dudebro Scott (Graham Todd) and the bimbo, Shelly (Kryssy Becker), Scott met a few days earlier; as they take a trip into the woods where they find an evil book, the Necronomicon (not the be confused with the Satanic Mexican snack guide Nachos-om-nom-nom-icon), along with an audio tape (ask your parents, kids) with the translation, which when played releases an evil force into this world (no, not Nickelback) that proceeds to possess the not-so-Scooby Gang. There will be blood. And there is.

A lot of it.

Seriously, oceans of blood. I'm talking spraying geysers of crimson that would make ICP blanch in horror. I'm not kidding. This is them vacuuming up the plasma lakes during intermission and this isn't the worst of it:

Yeah, as I was saying, there's so much splatter than the first SIX rows of the center section are covered in plastic and patrons are warned that the stuff may not wash out, so either don't wear your nice vintage white silk disco outfit or sit in the back or on the sides. (Tickets are general admission.) At the sparsely attended press performance, a pair of women in the front row and a trio behind them were the only ones in the kill box and were naturally the recipients of ALL of the splatter. Lucky them.

But back to the show and as with all musicals the songs are critical and fortunately Evil Dead: The Musical has a quite respectable batch of tunes. While not in the league of AAA fare like The Book of Mormon or even fellow Off-Broadway-musical-made-from-cult-movie Little Shop of Horrors (to be fair, that was by the tag team of Ashman and Menken who resurrected Disney animation with their music for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast), the tunes are catchy and memorable as well as I could hear them. (More on this in a moment.) The opening "Cabin In The Woods" and "What The F*ck Was That?" (with accompanying dudebro tango) stand out in particular, but nothing was especially lousy, so it works as a musical.

The cast comprised of local area performers - mostly from the Wayne State and Oakland University theater programs - are spunky and appealing, particularly Moan - who looks like a young Peter Scolari with a dash of Jim Carrey's mannerisms - and Becker who does double duty as the bimbo Shelly and then returns as Annie, the daughter of the unseen man who translated the book who has a chronic problem with wardrobe malfunctions. I saw a production in Toronto in 2008 with an Ash that looked scarily like Bruce Campbell and it's tempting to knock Moan for not being a lookalike, but that's his parents' fault.

The script is full of references (both obvious and somewhat oblique) to the work of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and Evil Dead which prompted a moment of Rocky Horroresque audience participation and while the production seems a little low-rent, that's a feature, not a bug.

What is a bug and a rather serious one for this sort of show was the substandard audio which rendered large amounts of the lyrics inaudible. Due to the budget, size of the venue and the oceans of liquid, individual body mics aren't practical and it's not as if I was expecting the same quality as the Fisher Theater or Detroit Opera House, but the taped musical backing was thin and tinny and most of the cast simply didn't project loudly enough to be heard meaning the clever wordplay of the lyrics was frequently lost on company numbers. Moan and Becker cut through, but the way the show is miked is insufficient. Perhaps they'll improve things during the run, but this was the second night of the run, so maybe not.

If you're a fan of Evil Dead (or haven't even seen it), cheesy exploitation flicks, goofy musicals or just plain old fun, Evil Dead: The Musical is a decent night at the theater. However, good tunes and a good cast deserve a good sound mix. Hopefully this will be improved.

Evil Dead: The Musical runs Thurs-Sat evenings at 8 pm. through October 25th. Tickets are general admission and cost $29.50 at the door (because $30 would be weird?) and more info can be found here.