‘Evil Dead’ makes a splash as ‘anti-musical’

SHARE ‘Evil Dead’ makes a splash as ‘anti-musical’

By Misha Davenport/For Sun-Times Media

If you’ve seen any of the three films in the cult-favorite, American horror movie series “The Evil Dead,” you’d expect a musical based on the trilogy to have its share of blood, guts and gore alongside its musical ballads and soft-shoe dance numbers. And you’d be right.

While the musical definitely has “jazz hands,” the first couple of rows nearest the stage are affectionately referred to as the “Splatter Zone.”

“[The zone] wasn’t part of the original show when we started in a nightclub in Toronto in 2003,” says playwright, lyricist and co-composer George Reinblatt. “It’s kind of the thing we are now known for. The Splatter Zone is always the first group of tickets to sell out. Some people think it is the greatest thing to get covered in [fake] blood. It somehow makes you feel like you’re part of the show.”

“Evil Dead: The Musical,”which has been favorably compared to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” follows the misadventures of five hapless college students spending spring break in an isolated cabin in the woods where they find an ancient book of the dead and accidentally unleash a horde of demons that turn people into zombies.

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‘Evil Dead: The Musical’ When: Tuesday through Oct. 12 Where: The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut Tickets: $29.99-$67.99 Info: (800) 775-2000; broadwayinchicago.com

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“When we started this project, there were so many musicals being made based on movies,” Reinblatt says. “We were looking for something that would turn all of that on its head. We tried to come up with what would be the goofiest, craziest idea for a musical based on a movie and we settled on ‘Evil Dead.’ ”

Director and co-composer Christopher Bond ironically shares the same name as a certain other playwright of the macabre (that of British playwright Christopher Bond, best known for the 1973 play “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” that was the basis of the gory 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name).

“I wish we were related, it would make for such a better story,” he says with a chuckle. “Given his body of work, people do think we are the same person and he gets credit for a lot of my work.”

Bond says “Evil Dead” works because the very premise doesn’t allow anyone to take things too seriously.

“Nobody who has watched any of the films has ever said these characters should be singing and dancing,” he says. “It is an anti-musical, really. The fact that you have all this blood and gore and people sing and dance somehow makes it a show for everybody.”

More than a decade later, the show has played to enthusiastic audiences all over the world. Chicago finally gets in on the fun with the production running throughOct. 12 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

“I get a little emotional about playing Chicago,” Bond says. “This show and its humor seem made for the town.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the national touring company of the show is made up of a majority of Chicago-based actors including Julie Baird (Elly May in the Theatre at the Center’s “Beverly Hillbillies: The Musical”), David Sajewich (Drury Lane Oakbrook’s “Les Miserables”) and Callie Johnson (Bailiwick’s “Carrie”).

Bond says given Johnson’s past work in particular, they knew she was the right actress for the show.

“As the title character in ‘Carrie’ we knew she was used to being covered in blood,” he says. “It’s old hat for her, she’s been there and done that.”

Good thing, too. The Chicago run of the show promises to be extra special. Bond says they plan to unveil a new blood special effect.

“We brought in a new blood guy who had more than a few new tricks up his sleeve,” Bond says. “I don’t want to spoil anything, but one of the effects we will be debuting in Chicago is one of the most magical effects we’ve attempted to pull off. Audiences are going to love it.”

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