My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Evil Dead the Musical:
third time, still a charm

by Drew Rowsome

You must realize
We will never die
We’re already dead
We’ve died twice before
But we’re back for more
You can’t stop the dead

You can’t kill the kill
And you can’t pass on the pass
Now we’ll take that chainsaw
And we’ll shove it up your...

Thank goodness the Evil Dead are/is back for more. In times of trouble, and the end of October 2014 certainly qualifies, people turn to horror to reassure themselves that their existence isn't quite that scary. Or to comedy to laugh their traumas away. Or to musicals to be swept away into emotional bliss. Or, if they're really lucky, they get all three and just have a bloody good time.

Evil Dead the Musical has healthy doses of horror, comedy and music, but the accent is definitely on the bloody good time. There is seemingly nothing that the clever script, snappy lyrics and energized cast will not do for a laugh, a chance to spew plasma into the audience, or a moment in the spotlight. The fourth wall does not exist and the set itself is so active that it is another character. Some of the jokes are spoofs on the source material film; some are satirical jabs at horror films and musicals in general; and some are just smutty. Clever solutions to budget problems turn into winks and become hilarious virtues. But the majority of the jokes acknowledge that we are there anticipating a bloodbath, and the anticipation is killing us.

When the bloodbath does arrive it is horrific, hilarious, and sung and danced with style. And, thanks to the Splatter Zone, it even involves audience participation. Bloodlust sated, earworms inserted, sides split and troubles forgotten, Evil Dead the Musical makes for  a very satisfactory evening of entertainment.

This is the third time I've enjoyed a production of Evil Dead the Musical, and because it isn't Hamlet there is no need to compare and contrast interpretations. Searching for metaphorical commentary is fruitless - though, pun intended, the "What the Fuck Was That" dance number and the constant dick jokes could probably be coaxed into some sort of critical analysis of homosexual panic in the horror genre and the rising of the repressed - all that matters is that it captivates and reduces to helpless laughter quite effectively.

David Sajewich is a sterling matinee idol lead. Possessed of a mega-watt smile, showstopping biceps, and glorious wide-ranging vocals, he cuts his way into the audience's heart, and nether regions, with the same effectiveness as he wields a chainsaw. He is a serious action hero with goofy nerd roots and his sole wink to the audience is his obvious disdain for all musical numbers except his own. His poker-faced innocence makes his clueless sexual references all the funnier, and his overwrought emotional moments believable while still comic.

The competition for sex symbol status is steep. Creg Sclavi has enough frat boy appeal to sell the stream of obscenities, innuendo and bravado that his best friend character spouts. And his endless obsession with his genitalia (to be fair the entire show is obsessed with male genitalia) pays off with a big laugh in the first gory goofy death scene. Ryan McBride as the "Bit Part Demon" has a slinky grace and strong jawline that hints that he is ready for lead parts. This cast is uniformly attractive and emphasize the choreography - a tasty mix of witty and scatological - creating a tightly executed and relentless barrage of physical comedy. Watching them dance The Necronomicon is a sexy treat, there is lots of limber swiveling going on and if only the costumes were a bit skimpier: Sclavi's demon chest was all tease.

Special mention goes to Andrew Di Rosa (Altar BoyzShrek the Musical) who gets to unleash his powerful voice and strong stage presence in the Evil Dead's funniest number, "Good Old Reliable Jake,"

Who can help you when you’ve lost your keys
Or when you need double bypass surgery
Who can be your partner in the two-man luge
And can sneak a dead hooker out your hotel room

Di Rosa's rich baritone soars effortlessly to a sweet falsetto climax note that earned applause all on its own. This touring cast has mainly been pulled from Chicago's vibrant and competitive theatre scene but Di Rosa, a graduate of U of T, Sheridan and the Lower Ossington Theatre boot camp, more than holds his own and does his hometown proud.

Julia Baird does dumb blonde with sexy aplomb and ball-busting damsel-in-distress with style. When the two stereotypes are combined - her clothing tears off quite fetchingly - we see a woman who is on the joke and happy to flaunt it. Jessica Kingsdale is a good girl gone bad (demonically bad) and Demi Zaino is a bad joke machine who also dances up a storm. Ryan Czerwonko fills in all the holes in the plot and his deliciously hairy chest and aroused nipples effortlessly upstage a talking head.

When the campy carnage is over, while the last harmony still reverberates, Evil Dead the Musical lingers like Halloween candy: offering no lessons to be learned, no nutritional value beyond entertainment, but oh so irresistibly delicious.

Evil Dead the Musical runs until Sun, Nov 9 at the George Randolph Theatre, 736 Bathurst St.