Evil Dead: The Musical is enjoying its Midwestern premiere at Theatre on the Square, with a cast and crew that are having as much fun putting this show on as you will have watching it. Based on the Sam Raimi films from the ’80s, there are singing and dancing zombie demons (including a moose), maniacal killer trees and enough fake blood to make the stage a veritable Slip ’n’ Slide for the actors.
R.A. Shane Chuvalas is the story’s hero, Ash — the part played in the movies by Bruce Campbell. While he admits he lacks the trademark Campbell chin, he is still a laudably laughable stand-in for the chainsaw-wielding, studly slayer. In fact, under Ron Spencer’s direction, the entire cast takes full advantage of the campy show: Linda Heiden as Ash’s “perfect” S-Mart girlfriend (also named Linda); Rebbecca DeVries as Ash’s outcast sister Cheryl, who spends most of the show in the cellar as a pun-spouting demon; Erin Cohenour, first as vapid Shelly, and later as aggressive Annie, who seems to end up in her undies a lot; and Evan Wesselmann as Scott, Ash’s sex-centric friend who picked up Shelly at a bar and brought her with them on their spring break vacation to an abandoned cabin in the woods. Other demon fodder includes Luke McConnell as Ed, the bit-part demon; Chris Meek as good ol’ reliable Jake, Annie’s overall-clad guide to the cabin; and Thom Turner as miscellaneous bits and bobs.
While the acting thoroughly captures the self-aware, tongue-in-cheek aspect of the show, the singing’s quality doesn’t measure up. While most of the solos are good — if not great — the cast’s voices don’t mesh for ensemble numbers and duets. They can’t harmonize. And Chuvalas can’t pull off his high notes.
The one show-stopping number is Cohenour’s “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons,” with backup by Chuvalas and Meek. The three nail this number. Everything is perfect: vocals, projection, choreography and comedy. I wish all the songs were this good.
The set is fantastic, with moving parts and trap doors. This is one of James Trofatter’s best at TOTS. It was well complemented by David Schlatter’s special effects — and the Necronomicon itself is dead creepy. The opening sequence with the suspended book is cool, too.
Evil Dead: The Musical continues at TOTS, 627 Massachusetts Ave., through Nov. 15. Tickets are $25; full-time students, military personnel and seniors are $20. For reservations, call 317-685-TOTS, or go to www.tots.org.