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Theatre In Focus: Evil Dead: The Musical

'Once a hit, always a hit'. Evil Dead: The Musical, fresh off its run Off Broadway, has landed in Toronto for the second time and has done it running at full speed. In some cases theatrical productions have major difficulties succeeding in Toronto without having successes abroad, um Lord of the what? The fact remains, however, that Evil Dead originated in Toronto in 2003 and was an instant hit. Then it became a hit abroad and now it's becoming a cult classic. Why?

"I admit, I probably have a completely different view of theatre than most", says lyrics and music writer George Reinblatt, "While some view theatre as a place to bring to light some social issue, or teach a moral lesson of some sort - I view theatre as pure escapism. The same way many would view the movies or TV. To me the theatre is a place to have a good time, relax and be engulfed in whatever world is being presented in front of you."

Under this auspices Reinblatt, along with Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Frank Cipola, has created a piece of theatre not seen since the Rocky Horror show. It is a show that is almost more like a rock concert. People scream and shout through beer soaked lips and blood stained wife beaters and ripped jeans. The audiences are not your typical theatre group. The show is not your typical night out.

Evil Dead: The musical follows the format of the first two horror films of the same name. Those films became cult hits in the early 80's and made a star out of its hero. Ash, played by the king of camp Bruce Campbell. Those films helped encapsulate an era of film genre. The "gore" genre. Here we have a 2-hour musical version of the films that strives to keep the 'campiness' at its maximum and infuse as much of the genre stereotypes as it can to get the laughs as well.

Much of the charm is the nostalgia of the time. Much of it is the ultra violence on the stage. But keeping within that frame of the genre makes it somewhat laughable and the violence ridiculous. That is also its intention, making the violence exciting by breaking down the walls of the fear that generally surrounds it.

"The craziest thing about this show is that to read what happens in the show, (blood, decapitations etc) you'd think it was the last thing you'd want to see in this current world. Every day you read about one horribly violent act after another in the paper, and it makes you sick to your stomach...who could imagine that to forget about that stuff - you'd be cheering for a bloodbath. Screaming with joy when a head gets cut off or someone is shot through a wall. And that is why I think this show is so special. You are laughing and having fun with things you never ever thought you would."

The story is simple. Five young students reach a small cabin in the woods for a weekend away. When they happen upon an old book found in the cabin that raises the dead well... I think you get the picture. One by one they are transformed into zombies and then obliterated by our hero Ash with weapons of choice; rifle and chainsaw. Songs and frat boy humour mix in and there you have it. Something in theory that may not have worked is a smash hit with critics and audiences and is, though not the brilliant theatre of Brecht and Artaud, something exciting and fun that does attract large audiences, particularly ones that rarely go to the theatre. In that Evil Dead the Musical is not only an anomaly but is something special.

"Like I said, the theatre can be as fun as a Leaf game, a concert, or a night at the bar, and my intention was to show that to the people who never gave it a chance. We want this to be accessible (to everyone)."

Evil Dead : The musical is running until June 23rd with a possible extension at the Diesel Playhouse Theatre and is brought to you by Jeffrey Latimer Entertainment and the Diesel Playhouse Theatre.

Photo of Ash played by Ryan Ward


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