By D. A. Blackburn
The question had an ominous tone to it. I’d just arrived at Ferndale’s Ringwald Theatre for the opening of “Evil Dead: The Musical,” and Jamie Richards was gesturing toward a sign that read “There will be blood” and asking if I’d like a rain poncho. It was immediately apparent that the folks at Who Wants Cake? had something really special in store for their guests.
The production, written by George Reinblatt, is a work of pop culture mastery – a campy, clever spoof of one of the greatest (I’m partial) B-movies in the horror section: Sam Raimi’s 1983 “Evil Dead.” The movie launched Raimi’s career, and that of actor Bruce Campbell, and though filmed on a minuscule budget, pushed the envelope for horror to new heights.
The Ringwald production isn’t likely to launch any careers, but it certainly establishes a new high water – or blood – mark for a number of people involved. Michelle Becker’s set is a joy, full of creepy surprises. And the show’s effects team (Jen and Ted Hanson and Michelle and Tommy LeRoy) have gone above and beyond any previous WWC? production.
But credit must also be given to a superb cast and playful direction by Joe Plambeck.
As Ash, Mitchell Koory gives one of his strongest performances to date – mindful of the role’s origin, but vividly fresh. Christa Coulter’s transformation from awkward introvert Cheryl, to vicious, pun-spewing demon is excellent. And Jessalyn Brooks’ dual-role appearance as Shelly and Annie is, likewise, a delight.
Musically, “Evil Dead” is a bit of a zombie, but Reinblatt’s book is packed with hilarious lyrics and songs. The cast is, likewise, a bit awkward vocally, but this actually adds to the B-movie spirit of the production, ultimately doing no damage.
That said, fine acting – and a couple 55 gallon drums of fake blood – make “Evil Dead” the funniest and goriest Halloween production of the year. And as for that rain poncho, I recommend it. And a good seat close to the stage.
‘Evil Dead: The Musical’
Who Wants Cake Theatre, The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Friday-Monday through Nov. 16. $10-$25. 248-545-5545. http://www.whowantscaketheatre.com.