Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Evil Dead: A Deeper Look into the Musical Experience

Ever since Evil Dead: The Musical exploded onto the scene and landed on Broadway, it has evolved to become a unique experience to be enjoyed by all. Some people, producers included, see it as more than just a show. It is a night where the love for film and the performing arts work very well together to entertain.

"We evolve the show every time," said Chance Newman, director of Last Chance Productions, "We've never done the show the same way. And when we see something that’s not working, we throw in something else."

Newman's academic background in film and years spent in musical theatre proves to be a perfect synthesis of how genres can cross over. With more than thirty years in both disciplines and also in him hosting haunted attractions during Halloween, he says that it was just a natural fit for him to produce this northwest version of the show. Also, he can tell audiences which numbers are what when it was first performed.

"’Bit Part Demon’ is based on ‘Mr. Cellophane’ from Chicago, and ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is based off of Grease," revealed this director.

He has also been to enough other Evil Dead: The Musical shows to see what other groups are doing. But given his diverse background, he is able to inject more than just his vision. The performers not doubt have their own interpretations as well.

Chris Bond, the lead writer of the original production, only affirms this fact; "Evil Dead the Musical is presented by amateurs and professionals alike, so the shows will vary, a lot."

With Newman and the cast he works with being film enthusiasts, what audiences observe is a cumulation of other in-jokes, cartoon references and parody. This director loves Monty Python, and will insert as much camp as he can into his production. That also includes one angry squirrel mixing it up with a happy rabbit that needs to be seen to be believed.

"Whether it's in the characters or with the props. We all have our own favourite moments," said Newman, "Some of us are Evil Dead, Evil Dead Two or Army of Darkness fans. And so we really try to bring whatever we can into that and then make it an overall fun experience for the fans."

That can also include a few "Scooby Doo" moments when everyone is lined up, afraid to open the door. But there are also a few traditional staples like paying homage to the man who is Ash, with one particular book, ”If Chins Could Kill,” by Bruce Campbell. Even with repeated viewings, the jokes do not wear out. But there is more this show than just simply showing up to get a white shirt bloodied up.

Newman knows how to set up the Splatterzone, the area of the theatre set up and protected so attendees can get soaked with fake blood. He hinted at how the effects behind stage are very hard to coordinate. “You have to dance on stage with a lot of blood,” warned this director, ”Slipping can be a hazard."

He also reveals that seven types of blood are used in his show. Other productions can be very elaborate, using a sprinkler system, or very simple, like having a lone individual with a squirt gun. In terms of advice in how to get painted with it, he finds some fans are far too enthusiastic for it and they forget the point of the show. He talked about how he witnessed a show where one fan literally jumped on stage when the blood came a-squirting!

In Newman’s version, he adds to the product by putting some other ideas to the fore. He plays up the rivalry between Evil Dead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show since both products are high up there as cult products.

"In the opening number, we thought it'd be fun to have Dr. Frank n Furter sing 'Sweet Transvestite,' and have Ash come out to shoot him," laughed Newman.

This cross pollination should come to be no surprise to those audiences familiar with the horror musical and comedy tradition. Last Chance Productions show has an opening act: The comedy-horror styling of Gerald Gerald Geraldson worked the audiences with his stand-up comedy and his rendition of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way.’ This comedian was quite honoured to have the chance to open for this show. He even had a cameo as the ghost of Doctor Knowby.

The cast welcomed him with open arms, and altogether, both performances were very spirited. Newman describes his production as a horror variety show and he personally believes that it just adds to the overall fun of the night. Those feelings are what get audiences talking about afterwards, and that enthusiasm is bringing this particular show back to Portland, Oregon on July 13th and 14th.

"Producers are always clamoring to get young audiences into the theater," noted Bond. "And the minute you have a hilarious horror comedy, you have a work that will continue to interest that audience and future generations."

For advance ticket sales or details of this coming show, please visit:

The Evil Dead Tour Homepage

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