The Evil Dead fans came out in droves for the opening night of Evil Dead: The Musical on Thursday night. The current of excitement was tangible outside the Vogue as they lined up in the damp Vancouver air. Inside, the atmosphere was far more akin to a rock concert than to that of a typical night out at the theatre.
Musical-theatre patrons can be a devoted and passionate lot, but they generally don’t show up to see Les Misérables or A Chorus Line in stage makeup or costumes. The Evil Dead crowd was a definite exception to that rule.
The musical version comes with a built-in fan base thanks to director Sam Raimi’s cult horror Evil Dead film trilogy. Movie fans were amply represented in the opening night’s audience as evidenced by their enthusiastic appreciation of inside jokes referencing Raimi and his films.
For those unfamiliar with the movies, Evil Dead follows five college students spending their spring break at an old abandoned cabin in the woods. An ancient evil is released and blood, gore and mayhem ensue.
Producers, publicists and the press in other cities have repeatedly compared Evil Dead: The Musical to that other camp classic, The Rocky Horror Show. Sadly, Evil Dead doesn’t quite live up to the billing.
Sure, there are some passing similarities to Rocky Horror, but there really should be no comparison. The songs and lyrics plumb the depths of awfulness. Not in the way of being so bad that they’re actually good. These are just bad, in the truly worst sense of the word. And it’s a shame. The slasher and horror genre are ripe for musical parody, but the book and the music here just aren’t up to snuff.
The sound quality was noticeably spotty and I struggled to catch many lines as mics dropped in and out with little regard to who was actually supposed to be speaking or singing. Conversely, lead actor Tyler Rive was over-amplified throughout the show.
With that said, based on the audience’s reaction, the quality (or lack thereof) of the music, lyrics, or plot was inconsequential. They roared and cheered with delight each time that a familiar line from the film was recited, or a body was dismembered, or when a demonically-animated corpse made sexually suggestive pelvic thrusts. I have to assume that only part of that enthusiasm was due to alcohol or other intoxicants.
Much of the excitement revolved around the gratuitous use of blood and gore. Patrons pay a premium to sit in the first five rows of the theatre, which are termed the “Splatter Zone.” At intermission ushers handed out plastic ponchos to protect against the second act onslaught of stage blood which rained from all directions onto the audience members in the “Splatter Zone.”
High art it definitely ain’t. Evil Dead may not be everyone’s particular cup of blood, but for the sheer spectacle and concert-style atmosphere it’s worth checking out. Excitement about the theatre is always a good thing in my book, even if the material doesn’t deserve it.
Evil Dead: The Musical, presented by Ground Zero Theatre, Hit & Myth Productions and Keystone plays an extended run until November 14, 2009 at the Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St. Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-280-4444.