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By Dana Casadei
Black garbage bags covered the first six rows of seats, there were “blood stains” on the curtain made of sheets, and yet there was a buzz of excitement as people took their seats for the City Theatre’s fourth annual “Evil Dead: The Musical.” During the two-hour show, that excitement in the audience didn’t die; in fact, it just kept growing.
Based on Sam Raimi’s ’80s cult classic films, “Evil Dead: The Musical” (book and lyrics by George Reinblatt; music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt; music supervision by Cipolla; and additional lyrics by Bond and Rob Daleman) takes the horror films and turns them into a parody of sorts with music and dance, and a lot of love for the originals.
Directed by Travis Reiff, with musical direction by Jeff Bobick, five friends – Ash (Steve Carson), his girlfriend Linda (Katy Kujala), best buddy Scott (Andrew Faber), Scott’s spring break sex friend Shelly (Kelly Klopocinski), and Ash’s sister Cheryl (Heather Sejnow) – adventure to an abandoned cabin in the woods for some spring break fun. Naturally things don’t go as planned upon arrival, especially after the group decides to see what’s in the cabin’s mysterious cellar. This leads to unleashing an evil spirit, Ash’s cohorts turning into demons, and our hero fighting for his life.
While Ash is fighting until dawn to survive, the cabin owner’s daughter Annie (Klopocinski in dual roles) is on a mission of her own with her fiance Ed (Tim Stone) and town local Jake (David Schoen, playing the character for the fourth year in a row) guiding their way to the cabin of doom. What ensues is a lot of laughs, a bunch of blood – they aren’t kidding when they warn you about the “splash zone” – and some really catchy songs.
Ash is the hero of the show, in more ways than one. Carson is one of the stronger vocalists and has comedic timing that does wonders. Ash may be a little pompous, and at times slightly full of himself, but Carson’s portrayal still makes viewers want to root for him. It helps that both Ash and Carson are unbelievably charming.
Sejnow is obviously having a blast playing wacky sister Cheryl, and it shows time and time again, especially in the musical number “Look Who’s Evil Now.” Klopocinski has to be mentioned as well. Not only is she nearly unrecognizable in her dual roles, but also her lead in “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons” earned one of the largest applauses of the evening.
The comedy in the show is played big, as it should be, which makes up for sometimes lackluster vocals. Many of the actors have booming voices, while others are lost, especially in some of the larger group numbers. I’m not sure if it was because the music was too loud, or because they weren’t projecting enough; possibly it was a mixture of both. Allyson Smith’s choreography adds even more humor to the already hilarious numbers, including the bromance tango in “What The Fuck Was That?”
Tommy LeRoy’s set is a knockout, with the cabin coming fully alive, talking moose head included. Bailey Boudreau created costumes that match each character’s personality, and pieces that tear away easily and have the bloodstains washed out quickly. Jen and Ted Hansen’s special effects really add the gore to the musical, spraying those brave enough to sit in the splash zone, and everyone on stage.
The City Theatre isn’t a place you’re likely going to see Shakespeare or anything deemed a “classic” by Tony standards. You’re going to see parodies of everything from Harry Potter to “The Hunger Games,” and listen to people discuss the best way to con a man. The combination of Olympia Entertainment and The Ringwald Theatre, another place known for its unique show choices, gives viewers a match made in heaven. Or zombie hell.
‘Evil Dead: The Musical’
The Ringwald and Olympia Entertainment at City Theatre, 2301 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Oct. 25, plus 4 p.m. & 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. 2 hours. $29.50. 800-745-3000. http://www.olympiaentertainment.com