‘Evil Dead The Musical’ has no relationship to anything by the Monty Python troupe. Nor is it an homage to their work. The elements that lift the piece above its own excesses by playing off them however were all devices used brilliantly by the “Pythons” as they paved their way into legend. That’s definitely the way of things with this piece.
The set, constructed by a large team working with Norm Francoeur, likely received creative input from several of its builders. The props, selected and placed by Natalie Jackson and [Director] Trevor Morris, quite likely utilized ideas from both as well. The lighting was designed by Catherine Souliere while choreography was set in place by Bethany Tiegs. The fight scenes (which also were dance numbers) were directed by Dave Mitchell. Under the guidance of Music Director Frank Seager (who also played the guitar parts), pianist Hannah Stalmach bass player Dan Martin and drummer Harlan Braichet created a melodic foundation to anchor the chaos that could otherwise have run away with itself. That it maintained order was due to the Stage Management Team of Ian Alexander, Justin Clendenning, Paul Richardson. Everyone knew what was needed and when to do it at all times.
The performances were very good. Julie Cushman dominated a lot of the scenes she was in as ‘Cheryl’, the beleaguered sister of ‘Ash’. Max Major and Bill Elliot dished up a nice balanced of restrained instants and over the top moments in the roles o the redneck country guy ‘Jake’ and the bullied wimp, ‘Ed’. Jeff Mantha excelled as the caustic (and possibly sexually confused) ‘Scott’ and Amanda Wolters was a delight as the “nice girl”, ‘Linda’. She also had one of the really lovely singing voices from among the performers.
Ultimately though, this show belonged to Samantha Regan and Ryan Metzler. Samantha Regan’s portrayals of both the bimbo ’Shelly’ and the bright ‘Annie’ called for comic timing and projection of both suppressed and raw sexuality that she conveyed with panache. She also adjusted her singing to fit the characters using a squeaky but still pleasing tone for ‘Shelly’ and a more dusky one that was like a velvet carpet for ‘Annie’. As ‘Ash’ Ryan Metzler owned the stage regularly, delivering the most outrageous lines as if they were completely straight while dishing up hilarious segments of physical comedy. His singing was good with conviction expressed in every note.
Under the Direction of Trevor Morris, Theatre Sarnia’s production of ‘Evil Dead The Musical’ never takes itself seriously. The opening scene featured a song and dance number that’s laced generously with slapstick. The first look at the set dished up a haunted cabin with a trophy head on its wall that suggested Bullwinkle the Moose might be looking for something. Supporting it, was intricate choreography, atmospheric lighting with emphasis on both form and keeping eyes directed accordingly, and great melodic hooks. That pattern runs through the piece consistently even as the “events” it contains continually surprise.
The group who created the musical along with Sam Raimi, the writer of the original film and actor Bruce Campbell who helped finance it, created something (a monster) that thrives because of its excesses. The music, written by the team of Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris, Rob Daleman and George Reinblatt, is filled with hooks and humour that doesn’t let go. The action, which is constantly over the top, skewers the genre and itself. Everything is a show. Each character, the sets, props, music and even the audience are in on all the jokes. There’s no intended connection to the work done by the Monty Python troupe but it uses the overall perspective they created so effectively it could easily be described as “Pure Monty”.
It’s great stuff made possible by exceptional work from many people. It’s not intended for young children (or the politically correct for that matter), nor does it try to be. That’s stated clearly at the beginning of the show.
The audience enjoyed the piece immensely, especially when it went over the top.
The production runs through to October 31.