Evil Dead the Musical returns with even more blood, gore and singing and dancing Candarian demons
by Drew Rowsome-
"My partners and I had just graduated university and we were trying to make work for ourselves," says Christopher Bond of the genesis of Evil Dead the Musical. "We did a tech rehearsal at the bar and thought, 'Not bad. Maybe we won't lose all our money.'"
Far from losing money, Evil Dead the Musical is now, over a decade on, a phenomenon. It was a hit Off-Broadway, has a residency in Las Vegas, just completed a US/Canadian tour that is about to resume, has been produced around the world, and is coming to Toronto for the fourth time. "Toronto's the town where the show was born and we have a lot of fans here," says Bond. "Because of that there's an expectation for it to be amazing, that sets the bar high. So we're going bigger and crazier."
I have seen Evil Dead the Musical not just once or even twice but three times and enjoyed it immensely each time. That pleases Bond who has seen literally hundreds of productions. "The amateur rights are available and the licensing gets especially hot around Halloween," he says. "There was a high school version in Niagara Falls that took out all the swearing [difficult when one of the big numbers is "What the Fuck was That?"] but at the end they had like 30 zombie students dancing 'Do the Necronomicon.'"
As exciting as that was on a personal level, Bond stresses that Toronto is getting, "The Broadway professional version. People say, 'I saw the show in Vegas,' but then are blown away. Ours is bigger, more blood and more fun. We saw a version in Pittsburgh, which is a big zombie town, that had an insane Splatter Zone, so we hired him. This time in Toronto there will be more blood than ever, gallons and gallons. There's some new things, one in particular that I'll leave as a surprise. If you have a Splatter Zone ticket, you will get soaked. Bring a jacket, I always feel bad when people go out into the cold of February all wet."
Toronto has two other hometown advantages, Saphire Demitro and Michelle Nash who starred in Evil Dead the Musical's last national tour. "I didn't see them in Into the Woods, but Saphire is way talented. She's hilarious and a powderkeg onstage. Michelle is hilarious and has such a tremendous voice. We audition in New York and Chicago but Toronto is where we find these great musical comedic talents. They're not just musical theatre robots. So we cast them and take them on the road."
Evil Dead the Musical may truly be one of the undead. "Zombies are so mainstream and popular now. There's The Walking Dead, iZombie and Ash vs Evil Dead and the Evil Dead reboot. It's all good news when a franchise like Evil Dead becomes part of pop culture. The brand had kind of stopped after Army of Darkness, then we took our turn at making those demons sing and dance. We're not taking credit for the renaissance, but we are part of the canon."
As the hunky and beleaguered protagonist tries to explain to a local yokel, in one of Evil Dead the Musical's many camp moments,
It's an old tale. You've probably heard it a hundred times. Boy and his friends go on a week long vacation in the woods. Three friends turn into Candarian demons, one friend is killed by a forest of evil trees. Two demons are killed by their boyfriends respectively, while one stays in the cellar trying to kill everything in sight. Like I said, pretty standard stuff.
As standard as a show where "the puppets come to life and the cabin comes to life and tries to eat the guy who's wielding a chainsaw and spouting one-liners," says Bond. "It's just a fun night out."
Evil Dead the Musical runs Fri, Feb 12 to Sun, Feb 28 at the Randolph Theatre, 736 Bathurst St. evildeadthemusical.com