By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
The zombies in Evil Dead: The Musical never die, and neither, it seems, will the subgenre to which this campfest belongs. But if the postmodern musical must go on — and apparently, at all costs, it must — then it should do so with the passion of this charming new production at Nearly Naked Theatre.
Based on Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise of comic slasher pics, this musical homage is the latest in a subgenre of theater that has been breeding like bunnies ever since The Rocky Horror Show made a hit in 1973. This George Reinblatt tuner is exactly the kind of late-season fare that director Damon Dering and his Nearly Naked troupe typically offer.
And what a troupe. They swarm around our unlikely teenaged hero, a department store housewares clerk named Ash, fighting the undead while showing off their excessive charm and better-than-average pipes (and, because this is Nearly Naked, their better-than-average torsos, as well). Standouts include Chris Matesevac, whose cheeky stud Scotty sells dance moves and comic vocals with equal ease, and Alexandra Ncube as a brainless boob with a heart of gold. In the lead, Toby Yatso is a revelation. He plays Act One as a cheerful nerd but sexes up his second act with scenery-chewing machismo and a big, booming baritone.
Act Two is a sequel of sorts to its predecessor, with a largely different — and frankly much more engaging — supporting cast. Adam Vargas, always a pleasure in anything involving music and timing, has a terrific turn as a wacked-out woodsman named Jake. Victoria Fairclough is a scream —literally — as a terrified naïf with a crush on her leading man. And in what might be the best bit of the evening, Jonathan Brian Furedy thrills the crowd with a brilliant take on a bright number about bit-part demons who never get any quality screen time.
It's that kind of inventive material that saves this late-in-the-game culty horror spoof from being just another musicalized send-up. Reinblatt's book and lyrics riff on monster movies and Michael Jackson's Thriller and teensploitation pictures with dorky dialogue and hilarious tunes with titles like "All the Men in My Life (Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons)." It's not necessary to have more than a rudimentary knowledge of the Raimi films to really enjoy Evil Dead, thanks in good part to director Damon Dering's seamless direction. Dering makes turning a love for horror hokum into smooth amusement seem deceptively easy; by pushing every moment over the top, he blurs a succession of blackouts into one long nudge-and-wink. The result eclipses its own subgenre of spoofy camp, and that in itself is an achievement.