‘EVIL DEAD — THE MUSICAL’ NOT RECOMMENDED When: Through Oct. 12 Where: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut Tickets: $29.99-$67.99 Info: (800) 775-2000; BroadwayInChicago.com Run time: 2 hours with one intermission
Note to Broadway in Chicago: If “Evil Dead: The Musical” is the best show you could find to fill the stage of the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place — a prime venue for tourists that should showcase rather than desecrate this city’s unique theater scene — you would have done far better to have left the place dark. Pitch black dark.
This show is an insult to the Chicago theater community and to any audience member that shells out the money for a ticket. (I did not pay for my ticket but would like to collect for the two hours of my life that were lost.) Horrible, horrible and yet more horrible, “Evil Dead” is moronic beyond description. And really, even in the name of “fun,” the very last thing this city needs is a production that spends most of its time engaged in mock violence (decapitations with chainsaws, stabbings, shootings, self-mutilation and more), with splatter ponchos distributed) or the kind of sophomoric sex jokes that wouldn’t even pass muster at a frat party awash in Jell-O shots.
Of course you might try to blame it on Canada. (The show began in Toronto more than a decade ago and apparently has been widely produced since then, with this incarnation labeled “an American tour.”) An entirely unfunny send-up of Michigan-born filmmaker Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” horror franchise of the 1980s, it has been created (“disgorged” might be a more accurate word) by George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Melissa Morris and director Christopher Bond.
A sinking feeling set in from the start, as high-pitched voices and heavy-handed characterizations instantly called to mind the very worst sort of children’s theater. Things only went downhill from there. The “story”? Arriving for a spring break getaway at a remote cabin in the woods are Ash (David Sajewich), a college student who works in the housewares department of an S-Mart store; Linda (Julie Baird), the girlfriend he met on the job; Scott (Craig Sclavi), Ash’s obnoxious pal; Shelly (Callie Johnson), the dumb blonde who specializes in bouncing her boobs (yes, that’s the level here), and Cheryl (Demi Zaino), Ash’s younger sister.
As it happens, the professor who owns the cabin was translating a Book of the Dead. And before you know it, all five of the new arrivals unwittingly summon the demons he studied and become possessed by evil. Coming under the influence later on are Annie (Johnson), the daughter of that professor who has come looking for him, and her nerdy assistant, Ed (Ryan McBride), both of whom are guided to the cabin by a strange local yokel, Jake (Andrew Di Rosa, who would make a good Judd Fry in “Oklahoma”).
The cast is composed entirely of Chicago actors. The show is not their fault; they are just trying to earn a living, and they sing and dance with verve (Stacey Renee Maroske’s choreography for “Do the Necronomicon” is the single bright spot) while generating plenty of blood, sweat and screams. But watching Johnson — who left such a terrific impression in a Porchlight Music Theatre production of “Pal Joey” a couple of seasons back — I just wanted to toss her a life preserver. She, and all the rest of these performers, deserve so much better. And so do we.