Evil Dead: The Musical has returned to Toronto. Again. It was actually all the way back in 2003 that it made its debut in the Tranzac Club. Back then, it was known as Evil Dead 1 & 2: The Musical, on account of the fact that it took the plot of both of the first two movies in the cult schlock-horror franchise. It was a quirky concept and the budget little-show-that-could found itself an audience. After some successful runs in Montreal and New York, it came back last summer with its new, abbreviated moniker to much fanfare, even winning itself a Dora (The Audience Choice Award). It was still in a venue where audience members could order a beer with the show, but their tickets were a bit pricier over at the Diesel Playhouse. Now, the show is back at the Diesel again, promising new cast members and special effects. Just when you think it’s gone, it comes back again, more powerful than ever (much like a reanimated corpse possessed by an evil Candarian demon).
The basic structure of the show remains the same. The first act portrays the events of the film The Evil Dead, leaving the events of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn for the second act. Save a key scene and several iconic one-liners, the third (and most entertaining) film, Army of Darkness, is left out of the equation altogether. The show has definitely improved over the years in some regards. The cast’s musical theatre skills are pretty tight for this kind of show, and the special effects are truly gory (there’s even a splatter zone for particularly bloodthirsty audience members). Ryan Ward (pictured, right) does a great job of both looking like Bruce Campbell and delivering his catch phrases with panache. Still, what was cute and homemade at the Tranzac starts to look hackish and amateur at a more professional venue (particularly if you paid the $75 that the most expensive tickets cost). You start to notice that the songs aren’t very memorable, the jokes that don’t originate in the films aren’t very funny, and the choreography is more or less at the level of your average college musical. The show may have a couple of shout-outs to Rocky Horror, but this show is really more in the spirit of the ironic musical parody genre. The problem is, Evil Dead: The Musical never takes itself seriously enough to invest in the strong character development or sheer lyrical brilliance of Little Shop of Horrors or Reefer Madness. At the end of the day, Evil Dead might tickle your fancy, but it’s not likely to swallow your soul.
Evil Dead: The Musical plays until April 5.
Photo via rock-it promotions inc.