Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Even if you have never seen the Evil Dead horror films directed by Sam Raimi, Evil Dead The Musical, playing at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, is a must-see show for any mature audience who wants to experience a mix of horror and humor.
Based off of the original movies, the show incorporates a mix of all of the films in a twisted, pee-your-pants kind of way. The show is introduced with the source of all evil, the Necronomican Ex-Mortis, also known as “The Book of the Dead.”
When five friends visit an isolated cabin in the woods, they come across the Necronomican along with an audio-recorded translation of the book, which releases the spirits of evil demons. Unable to escape the terror and torment, one by one the friends become possessed by the evil spirits.
Professor Raymond Knowby, the owner of the cabin and voice of the audio-recording, explains that the only way to get rid of the demons is by bodily dismemberment. Ashley “Ash” Williams, the main character, must save himself and future victims of malevolence.
By incorporating a mix of scenes and characters from all of the movies, the musical’s director Christopher Bond successfully represents Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead I, Evil Dead II, and third film: Army of Darkness. What makes the show unique is the “Splatter Zone,” where blood soaks the audience in the first few rows of the theater, providing a fun and perhaps disgustingly memorable experience. Having blood splatter on the audience is one of the most entertaining features of the musical, and works well with the show’s gruesome theme. Some people may picture a musical to be a happy-go-lucky, less than thrilling type of entertainment, but this show, by far, proves in opposition of that perspective. The script is quite humorous, including the cast singing songs titled “What the F*** Was That” and “Blew That B**** Away.”
Ashley “Ash” Williams, played by Ryan Ward, not only has an amazing voice, but he is also the spitting image of the films’ lead, Bruce Campbell. If you put a younger version of Bruce Campbell side by side with Ryan Ward, you would have a hard time distinguishing which one was the original star. Co-stars Alison Smyth (Cheryl), Margaret Thompson (Linda), Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll (Scott), Laura Tremblay (Shelly/Annie), Kenton Blythe (Ed/Moos), and Daniel Williston (Jake) also play lead roles in the musical and maintain a voice as well as a charisma which makes for an appealing musical performance.
One of the greatest aspects of Evil Dead The Musical is being able to experience what you have seen and heard from the movies in person. The songs in the movies may sound dramatic, but hearing the piano, guitar, violin, and other instruments live is exhilarating. “What the F***Was That” is a dramatic song that the actors fearfully sing when they see others who become possessed. The trembling voices in harmony with the low, deep keys of a piano help create a frightening yet fun emotional experience. Although the songs work well with the plot of the story, when singing “Cabin in the Woods,” it is slightly difficult to articulate lyrically what they are singing. They sing at the wrong times and are not on key with each other. During the musical, each actor has a turn to give a solo musical performance of “Look Who’s Evil Now” when they become “possessed,” which was not a disappointment. They are loud, clear, melodic, and on key with the musical instruments which is essential to a flourishing vocal presentation. Once each character becomes “possessed” by evil spirits, they move creepily across stage exemplifying awkward bodily movements which help to make the demonic possessions believable.
For almost 75 percent of the show, the stage was set up to look like the inside of the cabin.
Like in Evil Dead II, Ash’s girlfriend, Linda, becomes possessed, and he has no choice but to sever her head with a chainsaw. On stage all you can see is Linda’s head peeking through the top of a wooden table without the rest of her body in view. Just like within the film, Linda’s cackling, chatty head repeatedly wiggles back and forth, provoking and antagonizing Ash. In Evil Dead I, when Cheryl (Ash’s sister) is the first to become possessed, the friends lock her in the basement. On stage there is a door that opens from the floor where she is thrown and “locked” away, making it look like there is an actual basement. When the cabin itself becomes haunted, the décor on the walls such as a talking moose head, picture frames, clock, and books on the bookshelf open, close, and spin in circles all while red lights flash like lightning. With “still life” coming alive, it makes for an eerie mood within the entire theater. Although the moose head should have been a deer head to portray the actual movie scene, it still helps make the musical just as creepy.
The special effects from the lights and sounds are a key feature of this musical play. In Evil Dead II, the trees crash into the window of the cabin, terrorizing the group of friends. During the play, a tree branch falls from the “outside” into the window of the cabin. The sound effects of breaking glass make it sound as if a window had been shattered on stage. Because many parts of the show consist of someone using a shotgun, the sound of a gunshot is heard each time one of the friends “shoots” another friend who becomes possessed, which makes the scene realistic.
The set includes a living room with a white screen leading to the kitchen. When Ash is in the kitchen trying to hack off his possessed right hand to prevent it from attacking him, all you see through the white divider is the dark silhouette of Ash holding a chainsaw in his left hand. To make the scene of the play as believable as the actual movie scene, ghostly bright red lights glare from the kitchen as blood splatters onto the kitchen side of the screen. The sound of a revving chainsaw and a screaming Ash made the audience jump with excitement.
The costumes definitely earn an A+ for staying true to the real clothes worn in each of the movies. Ash’s blue shirt and khaki pants, the disfigured looking bloody masks worn to represent someone who becomes possessed, and Linda’s silver oval pendant necklace are easily noticeable to anyone who has seen the films. Margaret Thompson, who played Linda, even wears a green and white Michigan shirt with white pants, fitting the actual movie costume to a “T.”
During the entire show, the audience could not stop laughing. The 20 minute intermission was definitely necessary for a bathroom break. Between the cast calling each other obscenities, the sick and twisted songs, the sexual innuendos, and the splatter of blood covering the front rows, the audience will be completely amused and will definitely get their money’s worth. The show may cost up to $65, but the experience is priceless.
For more information on ticketing and show times Evildeadthemusical.com/philadelphia.
Michele Patarino is a fourth-year student majoring in secondary English education She can be reached at MP616535@wcupa.edu. 

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