Review: Evil Dead, The Musical – In Las Vegas
Review by Dustin Hall
Remember (probably not) last Halloween, after returning from an arousing night at Rocky Horror, Live! how I mentioned that in March, we would be treated to Evil Dead: The Musical? Yeah, well, that didn’t happen. Better late than never, I say. At last, Off-Strip Productions has returned to bring us the ultimate experience in grueling theater! (Why no one has made that an official catch-phrase for the play, I’ve no effing idea)
I returned to the Onyx Theater, still nuzzled in the bosom of Hawks Gym gay club and the Green Door swingers club, up in the crotch of The Rack fetish store, to that shady little area in the Village Square Commercial Center. The Onyx is, as ever, a strange and tiny venue, with classic theater seats salvaged from some dead movie-house, promising an intimate night for the few dozen audience members it crams within its loins. Evil Dead may not have offered the lap dances and massages of last year’s Rocky Horror show, but I did still come out of the experience sufficiently moistened.
If you’ve never seen Evil Dead: The Musical (EDM) before, here’s a breakdown for you. EDM is a mash-up of the first two Evil Dead movies, also full of references to Army of Darkness. It’s originally written by George Reinblatt and is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of both the movie series and your typical music theater tropes. The low budget movies, as it turns out, lend themselves to low-budget theater particularly well, needing little more than a basic cabin for a set and a few potted trees to mask the ‘outdoor’ sequences. And as for the Deadite locked in the cellar? Well, happily, plenty of stages have trapdoors. EDM is the only musical which has a ‘Splatter Zone’, and they’re quite proud of it. The first two rows are deluged with blood during the show, sometimes it literally rains down upon the audience. Sometimes the cast will feel particularly zealous, and spray their entrails all the way into the mid-sections. Like a visit to Seaworld or a hot date, you haven’t experienced it for real unless you come out soaking wet. Traditionally, regular attendees don’t wash their splatter shirts between performances, seeing how much red they accumulate over time, like a badge of honor.
So now, Las Vegas has its own little version of EDM. And let me tell you about theater in Vegas: It sucks. If you aren’t part of Cirque de Soliel or some Goth-shit magician, good luck getting any sort of production budget or a stage larger than my living room. However, that doesn’t make the cast of the shows any less exuberant, and the fine folks at EDM are very insistent upon the idea that you don’t need to have, or spend, a lot of money to have a good time. From the opening intro/stand-up routine by director Sirc Michaels to the final curtain call and meet and greet in the lobby, the players make sure that the audience knows their appreciation for coming out, and lets them feel that they are very much a part of the show.
Ben Stobber does an excellent job as Ash. He’s an Onyx vet from the Rocky Horror shadow casts (no longer housed at the Onyx. Boooo!) and I think, but can’t confirm at the moment, that he might have been in the popular Naked Boys Singing. Another fine Rocky Horror vet, and also from the recent play Stop Kiss is Sarah Willick, who plays Ash’s best girl Linda with tons of verve and pep. John Tomasello’s Jake gets tons of laughs, as the red neck who’s not afraid of getting into some falsetto notes. The real show stoppers are Elizabeth Erin Matthews who flails about as Ash’s sister Cheryl with all the grace of a dying goose, and Nicole Unger as Annie, who suffers a multitude of wardrobe malfunctions, transforming her character from high-strung researcher into vivacious babe-in-arms by the show’s end. (Yowza.) Ultimately, though, there isn’t a bad member of the main cast. They’ve really got the best of Vegas’s underground theater on display.
So okay, I really don’t want to oversell this play. We dont’ need some jackass from the New Yorker going in expecting high art and exemplary theater and then coming out at me all pissed. The songs are really nothing breathtaking, nor is the set, or the dance choreography, but that really isn’t the point, anyway. EDM is a musical made for horror fans. Horror fans who, in this era, have been raised on the goriest, juiciest, schlockiest low budget crap films that cinema has to offer. Its an extremely self-aware show, full of bad puns, prop malfunctions, improv, blood, sexual innuendo, and all the other oddities that make the show so unique. I mean, yeah, it’s a bit ridiculous that the outdoor set is four trees tied to black boards and attached to rollers. But, that’s just part of the fun, right? The cast knows very well what kind of budget limitations they had putting this together, and they have a laugh at it. We laugh with them and by the show’s close, after an evening of eye-rolling jokes and Sam Raimi movie references, they somehow have fifty blood-drenched audience members standing in their seats dancing with them.
If you can find Evil Dead: The Musical playing in your area, I highly recommend checking it out. And if you happen to be in the Las Vegas area, get your asses out to see it, and appreciate what little art we actually have in this God forsaken town. You’re far too clean as it is, anyway. Come get some blood on you.
Directed by: Sirc Michaels
Principal Cast: Ben Stobber, John Tomasello, Michael Kimm, Brian “Mickey” Roark, Lorie Palkow, Nicole Unger, Sarah Willick, Elizabeth Matthews