Saturday, October 23, 2010

EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL • Stray Dog Theatre

Nothing says Halloween like $35 splatter seats!  At Stray Dog's production of EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL, a few extra bucks entitles you to seats in the first couple of rows (if you dare) and a white "I Survived the Splatter Zone" t-shirt, sure to be drenched with fake blood by the end of the show.

This musical send-up is based on Sam Raimi's cult-classic horror flicks, "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2".  It ran off-Broadway in 2006 after enjoying success at Just for Laughs, a Montreal Comedy festival in 2004.  You don't have to be a fan of the Evil Dead films to enjoy this show though.  A vague familiarity with the horror/slasher genre is all you'll need.  I mean, when a story starts out with five college kids heading off to a remote cabin in the woods, you kinda know the deal.

Our ill-fated crew consists of our hero Ash, his girlfriend Linda, his little sister Cheryl, Ash's buddy Scott and his ditzy girlfriend Shelly.  Upon their arrival at the cabin, they discover a few "these will come in handy later on" weapons in the basement, a Book of the Dead left there by the previous occupant, a professor, and his audio recordings of incantations from the book, which of course they play back.  After that, all hell literally breaks loose.

Julie Venegoni (Linda), Gregory Cuellar (Ash)
and Anna Skidis (Cheryl).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Under Chris Owens' direction, this show is a campy, spoofy, pun-filled cheese-fest that practically gives itself a cramp winking at the audience.  Gregory Cuellar makes a splendid Ash.  He heads up the cast with boundless energy and has a slight resemblance to Bruce Campbell from the films.  Anna Skidis as his kid sister Cheryl has a great sense of comic timing and is a very funny "deadite" as she's the first one to enter the ranks of the un-dead.  The creative team make good use of Tower Grove Abbey's stained glass windows, projecting shadows on them when Cheryl ventures out into the woods.  They must go through about 10 gallons of blood packs during the course of the show too, whether it's Ash having to cut off his own possessed hand, poppin' shotgun caps in demons, or decapitating his girlfriend.  And the audience loves it.  Justin Been's set grabs your attention right as you walk in, and the pre-show spooky music sets the tone perfectly.  The acoustics at Tower Grove Abbey always seem a little off, and when you've got a bunch of kids screaming and a bevy of sound effects,  those problems are amplified (no pun intended), but the performances are engaging and the band sounds great, despite a little over-modulation every now and then.  With songs like "What the Fuck Was That?", "Do the Necronomicon" and "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons", you'll be in for a fun evening of entertainment.  Perfect for the Halloween season.


Book/lyrics by George Reinblatt
Music by Christopher Bond, Frank Cipolla, Melissa Morris, & George Reinblatt
Directed by Chris Owens
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through October 30 | tickets: $18 - $35
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm
Special added Halloween performance October 31 at 7pm
*Adult content

Gregory Cuellar (Ash), Anna Skidis (Cheryl), Julie Venegoni (Linda), Laura Coppinger (Shelly), Antonio Rodriguez (Scott), Ryan Cooper (Ed), Stephanie Merritt (Annie), Matt Anderson (Moose), Steven Castelli (Jake) and Ben Watts (Fake Shemp/Spirit of Knowby).

Costumes by Chris Owens; lighting design by Tyler Duenow; scenic/sound design by Justin Been; blood master, Justin Been.

The Band:
Piano/conductor, Joe Dreyer; guitar, Billy Croghan; drums, Sean Lanier; vocal director, Lea Eilers.

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