All zombie singing, all zombie dancing

Minneapolis’ production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” promises just as much shock, laughter and gore as its source

Andrew Penkalski

What: Evil Dead: The Musical

When: Oct. 22- Nov. 7

Where: The Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave

 

The âÄúEvil DeadâÄù trilogy, director Sam RaimiâÄôs collection of cult horror mainstays, play out as exercises in excess. Limbs fly from bodies. Blood sprays from flesh wounds as if it were pouring from a showerhead. The only thing absent from these loud, hilarious monuments to absurdity was some show tunes.

Since the 2004 Toronto origins of âÄúEvil Dead: The Musical,âÄù production companies from Tokyo to Cleveland have been playing in this wonderfully molded world of ultimate camp. Working with a source material that throws normal horror sensibilities out the window, the Minneapolis production will be the next group of players to put on a work that is not as weird as it sounds.

âÄúThose levels are so heightened in the movie âÄî thereâÄôs that higher level of anxiety, of horror, of suspense âÄî itâÄôs easily translated into a musical because musicals often heighten those anyway,âÄù director Steven Meerdink said.

For the uninitiated, the trilogy follows Ash Williams, played in the original by Bruce Campbell, through a series of bouts with demons and spirits âÄî each one more unbelievable than the last. Hands get traded in for chainsaws. The last installment involves time travel. And heads do roll. ItâÄôs a holy canon of horror for the film geeks and comic book guys of the world, and the cast is pretty fond of it too.

âÄúIâÄôve been a huge fan probably since I was way too young to watch the movies,âÄù said Chris Kind, who plays the lead role of Ash in the Minneapolis production.

Meerdink, who is also the associate director of the Minneapolis Musical Theatre, has also dabbled in zombie fodder with his 2007 production of âÄúZombie Prom.âÄù Clearly, RaimiâÄôs magnum opus is a work of endearment for those involved with its sing-a-long counterpart. ItâÄôs a fact that makes them even more careful with their treatment of this iconic piece of cinema.

âÄúI try to put what I would want if I was watching the show into the show,âÄù Kind said. âÄúThereâÄôs certain lines you have to deliver a certain way, because if you donâÄôt deliver it like Bruce Campbell it loses all the punch.âÄù

Certainly a large portion of the audience will be walking into the play, which borrows bits and pieces from all three films, with a rather specific set of expectations. Many will regard CampbellâÄôs original portrayal, with his enormous and expressive face, to be a thing of sacredness. ThatâÄôs why this is a production that emphasizes the strengths of the source.

âÄúWe try to create those moments of tension that they have,âÄù Kind said. âÄúThere are a lot of those moments where weâÄôve said, âÄòItâÄôs gotten too big. LetâÄôs try and ground these moments in reality.âÄôâÄù

Luckily, this reality check does not apply to the equaled amount of bright sticky blood and gore that will be caking the stage âÄî a fact that has warranted a fourteen-seat splatter zone for those interested in a more engaged viewing experience.

The biggest criticism of the musical genre often surrounds oneâÄôs inability to suspend disbelief. Any fan of the originals has already leaped a hurdle in that respect. This all-singing, all-dancing, all-bleeding rendition is much more than a simple elevated tier of lunacy.