Evil Dead: The Musical
The MIT Musical Theatre Guild
Next showtimes: Friday, April 30 and Saturday May 1 in Little Kresge
The MIT Musical Theatre Guild is currently putting on Evil Dead: The Musical, based on the Evil Dead franchise from Sam Raimi. Personally, I’m somewhat ambivalent regarding the “post-modern” musical, the show that is aware that it’s a musical and tries too hard to draw attention to that fact. My biggest complaint is that these musicals seem almost lazily written, with the occasional self-referential joke used to fill in wherever an in-universe one can’t be found. That’s not the case with Evil Dead. Rather, Evil Dead represents what a postmodern musical would look like with everyone involved — the songwriter, lyricist, book writer, and the characters — were wholly dedicated to making the show as self-aware as possible, and doing so stylistically rather than attempting to be ironic about it. The result is a show that revels hilariously in its horror movie roots as it deconstructs the genre at the same time. Combined with MTG’s remarkably talented, very B-movie execution, Evil Dead: The Musical is conceivably the most fun and entertaining show I’ve seen on campus.
The show itself is a pastiche of the three Evil Dead films, focusing mainly on the events of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 while the tone and numerous lines from Army of Darkness have been grafted on to it. Although there are many bonuses for audience members familiar with the particular franchise, the only thing that’s really required to enjoy the show is the barest awareness of the conventions associated with horror movies and film. The black guy would probably have died first, had there been one around. As it is, that honor goes to the hero’s innocent sibling whose common sense no one wants to listen to, followed by the ditzy red-shirt with no emotional relationship to the main characters, leaving the most close-knit group to fend for their lives.
The acting in Evil Dead: The Musical is top-notch, although vegetarians should be forewarned that there are heaping doses of ham with every scene. Christian Hegg plays protagonist Ash, and although he lacks the grizzled authority (and deadly chin) of Bruce Campbell, his performance is a worthy one, illustrating the transition from naïve college boy to resident genre-savvy demon slayer, complete with accurate costume, with ease. In one scene, Ash’s hand attacks him of its own volition, and Hegg carries off the Jim Carrey-esque acting required to portray the phantom appendage...handily. Priscilla Army ’10, in her last show with MTG, takes on a role that she is clearly comfortable in, although given her character arc throughout the show, it’s difficult to imagine a role she could not act with ease. She begins as Cheryl, Ash’s innocent, wholesome bookworm sister, but eventually graduates to a deadly foul-mouthed zombie with a wicked talent for bad puns. The supporting cast is likewise impressive, with even those in bit parts performing with gusto.
The music of Evil Dead: The Musical fits in well with the rest of the show, from the romantic ballad about love blossoming in a retail store (“Housewares Employee”) to the large-scale demon song-and-dance number (“Do the Necronomicon”) reminiscent of the Monster Mash or the Time Warp, the latter of which is even mentioned by name. The singing in the show is as good as anyone can expect, but the music in Evil Dead, interestingly enough, is not the biggest draw of the show. The show as a whole is centered on over-the-top fun and breaking the fourth wall, and the fact that musical numbers have been integrated into it only completes the wacky picture. Little conveys this idea as much as the “splash zone,” the first three rows in the center section. Suffice it to say that you shouldn’t be dressed to the nines if you choose to sit near the stage. I was wearing a rain slicker, rain pants, plastic booties for my shoes, safety glasses, and I still found myself wishing I’d worn surgical gloves. If it hadn’t been for my clipboard shield, my notes would have had quite a bit more stage blood on them than they do now. Trash bags and T-shirts are available at the show, but when Brad Smith as Jake, the world’s most vocally talented hillbilly, is running along the front row spurting chocolate-based fake blood, there’s only so much that cotton and plastic can do.
If you like shows that practically demand not to be taken too seriously, you’ll want to see this show. If you really like zombie movies, you’ll probably want to see this show. If you really like chocolate, you may want to sit in the front row with a funnel in your mouth — although I wouldn’t recommend it. And if you are a fan of the Evil Dead franchise, you have a duty to see this show. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Kresge Little Theatre. Demand is high, so arrive early if you can — and hail to the king, baby.