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Center Stage

‘Evil Dead’ goes musical at Stoner Theater

10/31/2012

Ben Ward and Lauren Shun co-star in “Evil Dead: The Musical,” running through Nov. 11 at Stoner Theater, 221 Walnut St., Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Produced by StageWest Theater Company, www.stagewestiowa.com.

The story of Candarian demons taking over Stoner Theater just in time for Halloween isn’t quite the zombie apocalypse hardcore horror fans are preparing for by hording canned foods and shot gun ammunition in a makeshift underground cellar, but it’s a start. For the followers of the 1980s cult classic trilogy, little is lost in translation, as “Evil Dead: The Musical” transforms the dry humor of the three original films into a song-and-dance series that combines the trio of stories into one production.                

Anyone who followed the films — “Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness” — is sure to have certain expectations, and the musical version written by George Reinblatt and directed by Stacy Brothers does not disappoint.                

“The ‘Evil Dead’ series has indeed found its way into the hearts of a select group,” Brothers stated. “For campy horror fans, it’s the perfect mix of the humorous and the horrific.”                

The musical version contains elements of all three movies, which takes place primarily in the classic horror story setting: a remote cabin deep in the woods, making the quaint Stoner Theater a perfect stage for this outrageous story depicted by a small cast. The demonic trees begin the show, baiting polite chuckles from a surprisingly age-diverse audience. But silent, shoulder-shaking giggles soon morphed into what sounded more like cackling hyenas long before the booze was kicking in.                

If the dialogue among the exaggerated stereotypical characters isn’t amusing enough, the lyrics and performance of all 17 songs on the program are sure to possess even the grimmest audience member with laughter. Dance parts are hysterically choreographed by David M. Decker, drawing viewers into the story with songs like “Bit Part Demon,” “Good Old Reliable Jake” and the debut number “Cabin in the Woods” — all impressively performed by the five main characters: the good guy next door, Ash (Ben Ward); his blonde and big-boobed girlfriend Linda (Lauren Shun); his best friend, play boy Scott (Zander Morales); Scott’s slutty sidekick Cheryl (Bridget Roepke); and the whiney fifth wheel, Ash’s sister Shelly (Claire Ottley). Each showcases exceptional vocal talents in solo, duet and group songs throughout the performance. As the sexy, seductive ladies of the cabin turn one-by-one into evil banshees, the song “What the Fuck Was That,” performed by Ash and Scott, serves as a hilarious climax heading into intermission.                

The music, written primarily by Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond and Melissa Morris, is crucial to setting the mood. The scene music and the songs are uniquely authenticated by the live band consisting of Ben Hagen (keyboard), Dustin Harmsen (bass), Ben Lehl (guitar) and Joel Gettys (drums) veiled by a hunter’s blind just offstage.              

True to the original films, “Evil Dead: The Musical” brilliantly spoofs the horror genre using everything at its disposal, from cheesy props for fake severed hands and heads to the blood spatter zone for the hardcore fans donned in plastic rain ponchos in the front row.                

Reinblatt nailed it, penning contemporary additions — to make the dated story current — while still remaining true to the satirical spirit of the original. “Evil Dead: The Musical” is a hysterical experience for cult followers and fresh meat alike. CV

Jokers