Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. Book and lyrics by George Reinblatt. Music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt. Directed by Bond. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.
Theater review by Kris Vire
This musical spoof of Sam Raimi's already comic horror-film debut, 1981's The Evil Dead, and its 1987 sequel, Evil Dead II, has apparently become something of a comedy institution in Toronto since its birth there just over a decade ago. The new production at the Broadway Playhouse, the kickoff of a non-Equity tour featuring a mostly Chicago-based cast of young actors and helmed by the show's original director, makes one wonder if something was lost in translation in crossing the Canadian border.
The show clearly aims for the campy, culty realm of The Rocky Horror Show, which frankly makes it a poor fit for the posh Mag Mile environs of the Broadway Playhouse; despite the fact that it's found some success as a late-night attraction in Vegas, this feels like a piece that wants a dingier, more down-market locale.
Venue aside, though, there are plenty of other problems in its recounting of Raimi's tale of teenagers accidentally unleashing ancient zombifying demons while on vacation at a secluded cabin in the woods. Raimi's debut was already a knowing, somewhat tongue-in-cheek affair, sending up horror-movie tropes on a microbudget. And it's tough to parody parody.
George Reinblatt's book can't decide what it wants to do: Poke fun at the Evil Dead films, or just lovingly reference them? Favor dated pop-culture groaners, or pile on with gratuitous dick-and-boob jokes? Even the references meant to be cheer lines for fans, as when reluctant hero Ash (David Sajewich, trying for Bruce Campbell's wry cool) brandishes his shotgun and says "This is my boomstick" (one of the few bits here from the second sequel, 1992's Army of Darkness), fall flat.
A cast of talented performers, including Sajewich as Ash and Callie Johnson as a pair of chest-heaving sexpots, is mostly at sea with this painfully tepid material. There are a couple of catchy tunes from the committee of composers (though a spotty sound mix made it impossible to tell on opening night if Reinblatt's lyrics are cleverer than his book).
And the gory audacity of the famed "splatter zone"—in which stage blood is liberally sprayed over the front rows of the audience during Ash's final confrontation with his demonized friends—brought to my lips the night's first hint of a smile. But unless this tour can find a dedicated and very forgiving base of movie superfans, it's on its way to bleeding out.