Book and Lyrics by George Reinblatt
Music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris & George Reinblatt
Directed by Joey Arena
The fun begins with the program, a full-color production that mimics the classic look of Playbill but carries the banner of “Playbile” instead. It is a fair indicator of what is to come.
The Alley Theater has made a specialty of shows that feature a “splatter zone” of up-close seating that comes equipped with emergency ponchos and protective eye wear. If you take the dare and enter this risky territory, take the precautions seriously, abandon vanity and wear the silly things, for you will be liberally soaked by a shower of fake blood. Evil Dead: The Musical uses the gimmick with such blatant gratuity that each and every patron who occupied a seat in this area found themselves dripping by the end, a puddle of red liquid pooling around their feet.
The fact that Producing Artistic Director Scott Davis has revived this show, after two successful runs of the equally wet Point Break Live!, comes as no surprise. The hard times we live in call out for such supremely silly theatre, as well as the fiscal rewards they bring to a struggling local company. Opening night brought a healthy number of enthusiastic patrons, many of whom were return customers from the first Louisville run of this show in 2009. They did not seem to be disappointed.
I failed to catch that production, so you will find no comparisons here. The plot is a parody of the simple story contained in Sam Raimi’s classic low-budget film, The Evil Dead, and its sequel, Evil Dead 2. Five young people find themselves stranded in a remote cabin and inadvertently summon demons into their lives by mishandling a book called the Necronomicon, left there by a professor whose daughter happens along in the second act.
The original is itself an ironic comment on such horror films in the first place, so any parody is necessarily an even loopier enterprise. This production swings for the fences and mostly knocks ist out of the park, with high energy and low humor that result in big laughs. A few technical glitches in the sound system and a couple of late lighting cues were not problem enough to derail the fun.
Director Joey Arena sets a brisk pace, with some of the gags disappearing amidst the audience’s laughter, and his cast plays it broadly. Rebecca Chaney played the thankless role of tag-along kid sister dutifully, and then cut loose with good vocals and dance moves in the high-energy number “Look Who’s Evil Now,” while Felicia Corbett, Jennifer Thompson and Daniel Smith all brought life and good timing to the rest of the spring vacation crew stranded in the woods. Later in the show, a trio of characters are introduced that included Neil Brewer, unabashedly cliché as Jake, a slack-jawed local yokel; sexy and smart Valerie Hopkins as Annie, whose costume keeps diminishing as the plot thickens; and Tyler Dippold as her assistant, Ed. Mr. Dippold also begins, saddled with a lackluster part; but the script efficiently delivers to each character enough spotlight moments, and the actor makes the most of his big moment.
Mason Stewart has the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Bruce Campbell, who played Ash in all three movies in the Evil Dead trilogy and who has enjoyed cult status ever since. Mr. Stewart has the requisite shock of dark hair and his chin almost measures up to Mr. Campbell’s famous specimen, but more importantly, he actually charts a journey for the character – from straight arrow college preppie to grim and determined demon slayer – that helps connect the audience to the story. Even silly theatre must do that, and Mr. Stewart leads the way in good form.
A small but rocking ensemble of musicians, led by Musical Director John Austin Clark on keyboards, provided suitable accompaniment.
Evil Dead: The Musical
The Alley Theater
1205 East Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40202