Play: “Evil Dead, the Musical”
Group: Stray Dog Theatre
Venue: Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue
Dates: October 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30
Tickets: $18-$20; contact 314-865-1995 or www.straydogtheatre.org
Story: Five college classmates are off to the woods for a weekend of fun, sex and shenanigans. There’s Ash and his girlfriend Linda, Ash’s best friend Scott and Shelly, the tramp he picked up at a local bar, and Ash’s sister Cheryl. Unfortunately for all concerned, they happen to have picked a cabin where a professor has unwittingly unleashed a variety of demons through his incantations. That’s not good, because the demons quickly infect our heroes one by one. While Ash staves off certain doom from his now undead compadres, Annie and Ed, accompanied by a localite named Jake, visit the house themselves and deal with the same fate. Can anyone be trusted? Can anyone be saved? Stay tuned.
Highlights: Inspired by a trio of campy horror flicks directed by cult icon Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, this goofy musical is so bad that it’s actually funny. A Canadian favorite since it first was launched in Toronto in 2003, “Evil Dead, the Musical” has been performed countless times in cities around the United States and the Great White North. It features a book and lyrics by George Reinblatt, music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt, music supervision by Cipolla, additional lyrics by Bond (not the senator) and additional music by Rob Daleman.
As is customary with “Evil Dead” productions, Stray Dog Theatre’s presentation directed by Chris Owens features a “Splatter Zone,” front rows where patrons may choose to shell out an extra $15 for a T-shirt and the privilege of being soaked with cherry juice or whatever as the bodies on stage come apart in the finest “Monty Python” fashion. It’s so ridiculous that it’s really pretty amusing.
Other Info: Choreographer Anna Hicks leads the spirited cast in a number of sprightly numbers, none better than the inspired “Do the Necronomicon” in Act II that features our walking dead in staggered syncopation. Director Owens keeps everything moving briskly, which is important given the goofy material, and he draws some wacky lunacy from his performers.
Gregory Cuellar leads the troupe as the glib, macho Ash, assisted humorously by Julie Venegoni as his true-blue girlfriend Linda, especially when she loses her head. Antonio Rodriguez has fun with the dialogue of Ash’s dull-witted pal Scott, while Laura Coppinger is a delight as Scott’s vapid pick-up Shelly. Anna Skidis is entertaining as Ash’s tagalong sister Cheryl, Stephanie Merritt is the professor’s noble niece Annie and Ryan Cooper gets plenty of laughs as Annie’s timid boyfriend Ed. Steven Castelli provides physical humor as the local Neanderthal Jake, while Matt Anderson and Ben Watts add to the comic mayhem as a pair of additional dullards on site.
Special kudos go to makeup designer Sarah Orloski and “blood master” Justin Been and “blood assistant” Austin Childress, along with Been for his gruesome sound design and his shabby chic cabin design, humorously lit by Tyler Duenow. And we can’t forget the energetic props crew, comprised of Been, Jay Hall and artistic director Gary Bell, who must have watched hours of old “Monty Python” skits to find the wacky knickknacks that fill the stage, from severed heads and hands to a creepy old book and assorted weapons of mass destruction.
Music director and pianist Joe Dreyer, guitarist Billy Croghan and drummer Sean Lanier contribute the appealing musical accompaniment and seem to be having a grand time doing so. All in all, “Evil Dead, the Musical” is tailor-made for a Halloween bloodfest with lots o’ ghoulish humor for its devotees.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.