Evil Dead

There aren't many shows that recommend audience members wear ponchos to prevent blood from splattering their clothes. This is no doubt a good thing.

Alas, wearing either a poncho or disposable clothes is a must while taking in the Garage Theatre's new production, "Evil Dead: The Musical." Trust me: no matter where one is seated, you are likely to be drenched in sticky red stuff by the end of the night. I even had to wash my shoes the day after.

This gory but high-spirited song and dance take on the 1981 horror film "The Evil Dead" is definitely not for all tastes. In addition to copious amounts of spurting blood, the musical features zombies who spout bad jokes, abundant foul language and a girl being raped by demon-possessed trees (off stage, thankfully).

"The Evil Dead" movie became a cult classic that spawned two big-screen sequels, a more recent remake and a current TV series. I doubt original writer-director Sam Raimi, who went on to helm three "Spider-Man" movies and other blockbusters, ever envisioned his low-budget film debut being performed live on stage.

Yet in an odd but inspired twist, writer and lyricist George Reinblatt did see "The Evil Dead" as a musical and enlisted three of his friends to compose its zesty satirical score. Songs such as "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons," "Look Who's Evil Now" and "Ode to an Accidental Stabbing," not to mention a big dance number entitled "Do the Necronomicon," obviously can't be taken too seriously. Their lyrics are frequently hilarious even if the vocal strength of a couple of the Garage's cast members was a little lacking the night I attended.

The "Evil Dead" plot is similar to a number of fellow "slasher" films that were all the rage in the late 1970s/early 1980s. A group of horny college students led by the studly Ash (short for "Ashley") head to a secluded cabin in the woods for their spring break getaway. Ash's younger sister, Cheryl, is also along for the ride. After breaking into the abandoned cabin, they discover an ancient Book of the Dead bound in human flesh and written in blood. Soon after, demons are awakened and begin to possess the young people. It falls to Ash to stop his zombified friends from taking over the world.

While this story doesn't exactly scream "musical comedy," it surprisingly works as such. The show's creators even cleverly give a stuffed moose head on the wall a singing role. The more familiar one is with the original movie, the more fun one is likely to have watching this stage adaptation. Director Matt Kollar and choreographer Dana Benedict have slightly limited staging opportunities given the Garage's small space and, for this show, raked stage but they make it work well. A special effect involving a disembodied hand is especially well done.

As Ash, talented Steven G. Frankenfield makes the role his own and even bears a startling physical resemblance to Bruce Campbell, the actor who played Ash in the original movies and continues to do so in the current Starz series. Hollie Sokol is suitably buxom and has fun as Ash's girlfriend/co-worker, Linda. Jazzy Jones is a hoot once she becomes possessed and locked in the basement, from where she hurls pun-heavy threats at her brother. Nori Tecosky, Austin Book, Paul Scott, Timmy Red and Marc Tecosky round out the blood-spattered cast, with a couple of them playing dual roles. The band directed by Alanah Ntzouras is especially good. Since the musicians are seated at one end of the audience, they are visible throughout the performance and even sport zombie makeup.

I highly recommend "Evil Dead: The Musical" to theatregoers interested in more offbeat fare, college students and fans of the film. Just be sure to bring a poncho or buy one at the door. The show runs through Oct. 15 and makes for fun pre-Halloween entertainment. Tickets may be purchased via thegaragetheatre.org.

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