theengineer

The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons


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Evil Dead - The Musical

Last night I went to see Evil Dead 1&2 - The Musical at the Tranzac Club, and it was nothing short of brilliant.

For those of you not in the know, Evil Dead was an early (1981) Sam Raimi low budget horror film starring his buddy Bruce Campbell. Five college students go to stay in a cabin in the woods, discover there the Book of the Dead, left by the professor who was studying it, and accidently release demons who possess them one by one. It was a straight up horror film that slowly acquired a cult following.

In 1987 Raimi remade the movie, now confusingly called Evil Dead 2 even though it's a remake, not a sequel. While most of the plot is the same (cabin in woods, Book of the Dead, demons, person chained in cellar, etc.) the set-up and resolution are somewhat different. The movie is also, while completely gory, much more tongue-in-cheek than the first film. Amid all the decapitations and dismembering, it's actually very funny. Bruce Campbell replayed his role of Ash from the first movie, and this was the movie that really launched him towards cult stardom.

A direct sequel to Evil Dead 2 was made in 1993, Army of Darkness, although it's also known as Medieval Dead as it takes place in the 1300s. Again starring Bruce, it's the final chapter (to date) in the Evil Dead saga.

Anyway, this theatre troupe, Beyond Chutleigh, got permission to create this homage to Raimi's work as their first original musical. It combines elements in Evil Dead 1 and 2, and also some of the best-known lines from Army of Darkness, which featured the character of Ash in full berserk fury from beginning to end.

First, the cast was great. The guy playing Ash was fine at the beginning of the play, but as it went on it was like he started channelling Bruce Campbell, and by the end he was Ash. There were also some very talented singers and dancers involved. As Jason said a few of them had some problems projecting while talking, while different people had problems projecting while singing, but I can't say there were any weak links there.

The staging was marvelous. While the set consisted of the interior of the cabin, they pulled off some wonderful lighting tricks to represent when people were supposed to be outside in the woods. They also pulled off mobile severed hands, decapitations performed in silhouette, and half the objects in the place coming alive during a musical number.

One piece of stagecraft deserves particular attention. When actors were possessed by demons, it was done by their wearing a piece of cheesecloth over their eyes or faces, which could be instantly removed when they were supposed to be "normal" again. A simple trick, but it's astonishing how well it works.

And the songs. The songs are practically up to Trey Parker level (South Park- The Movie). While there were some that were better than others, there's no song that failed to work. Andrew was asking afterwards if there will be a soundtrack available (it would be worth getting just for "What the F*uck Was That?!?") and they would like one to be, it's a matter of getting all the releases required.

If there was one negative thing about the show, it's that they felt it necessary to include several of Ash's big lines from the third movie, Army of Darkness. While some of them worked, some felt badly out of context. They wanted to put them in for fan appreciation, but it was too much of a stretch, they should have been satisfied with what they already had.

But this is a minor quibble. Unfortunately, there are only a few shows left in Toronto, and they are all sold out. Indeed, last night's show was sold out as well, and I only got a ticket by showing up a hour and a half early and standing in the rush ticket lineup. Before the show opened they counted empty seats (people who reserved tickets but then didn't show up) and let in enough to fill the house. Only nine people made it in. I'm very glad I showed up so early.

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