Review: Evil Dead: The Musical

By Larry Laneer
October 22, 2019

Some theatergoers may think taking Sam Raimi’s cult films of the 1980s and basing a stage show titled Evil Dead: The Musical on them sounds like a terrible idea. But not so fast. Take a look at Pollard Theatre Company’s current production of the musical and see what a feat of theatrical transmogrification it is.

This show may sound familiar. PTC did Evil Dead: The Musical in 2014. The company has said they revived the show because of “audience demand.” That seems odd at once, because it had played for a week by the time I saw it, and at the reviewed performance, the theater was barely half full. But that’s not the only odd thing about this show.

Rodgers and Hammerstein created their catalog of musicals with just the two of them. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Hamilton all by himself. But Evil Dead: The Musical took the committee of George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris, and Rob Daleman to birth it.

First, their pop/rock score is an unusual achievement. I would give you the titles of some of the songs, but PTC has saved me the trouble by not printing them in the program. Anyway, these composer-lyricists have written an entire show of songs that you will have forgotten by the time you get to your car. Or maybe seconds after they come out of the actors’ mouths. But the songs don’t matter much, because the cast in this production has a clever way of disguising the lyrics, so you can’t understand most of them.

Next, the show relieves audiences of a logical plot, cogent dialog, and thought-provoking ideas. Lines such as “What the fuck?” and “The trees are alive!” are clear, to the point, and delivered forcefully by the cast. A reference to the actor Henry Winkler causes the cast to give the double thumbs-up sign and exclaim “Aaaaaay!” And you thought Shakespeare was a great playwright.

The cast includes some of our leading actors. Wil Rogers, Megan Montgomery, and Jon-Philip Olson return from the 2014 production. Kristin Küns, Ian Cummings, Laura Renfro, and Kaleb Bruza are new to this revival.

The director Jared Blount must have coached the actors to give intentionally “bad” performances. And they nail it. The inferior acting fits the clichéd characters: the obnoxious jerk, the ditzy blonde, the bookish nerd, the country bumpkin. We’ve all seen most of these actors several times and know they are capable of giving “good” performances.

The show is inspired by gore cinema, but Blount limits the sanguinity mainly to some thin streams of stage blood sprayed on the first row of the audience. Granted, this show is bloodier than your average musical. Some directors might stage this play as a Grand Guignol. If this production were done that way, however, PTC stagehands would mop up the stage blood and dump it into the Guthrie sewer system, and it would eventually end up in the aquifer. Thus, a show that could be blood red is actually “green.”

Heidi Hoffer’s set design has been reincarnated from the 2014 production. Let’s just say strange things happen with the set. Objects move mysteriously by themselves.

The production employs the recorded voice of the great actor and long-time PTC company member James Ong. This is eerie in itself. Ong died in 2018. But it’s wonderful to hear his distinctive voice again.

So, theatergoers, let’s not dismiss Evil Dead: The Musical out of hand. You may never again see anything quite like it.

Evil Dead: The Musical by George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris, and Rob Daleman
Pollard Theatre Company
8:00 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, through November 2,
8:00 p.m. Thursday, October 31
Pollard Theatre
120 W. Harrison, Ave., Guthrie