Chicago Theatre Review
Blood, Boobs and Brainless Burlesque
Evil Dead–the Musical – Broadway in Chicago
There’s so many reasons for disappointment in this show that it’s difficult to know where to begin. First, there’s all the wasted talent on that stage. Ten gifted young musical theatre actor/singer/dancers, many from Chicago, are busting their collective butts in an attempt to make this production entertaining. They’ve got the energy, the style of the piece, the singing and dancing talent required in spades, but they’ve been given the most substandard material with which to work.
Second, did anyone do a sound check before Wednesday night’s opening? Almost without exception, every time an actor opened his mouth to speak or sing the microphones didn’t work. Eventually they’d pop on mid-sentence but by then it was too little, too late. And, almost without exception, when the mics did work, the annoying, tinny, canned musical accompaniment so overpowered the actors that most of the lyrics were lost. The glimmer of words that were audible seem kind of clever, but audiences will need to fork out $25 for the CD (available at the theatre souvenir window) to find out what they missed.
Then there’s the material itself, featuring a book and lyrics by George Reinblatt that fails to artfully spoof the 1980’s style of horror it intends to be parodying. The music by Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond and Melissa Morris ranges from okay to pretty good (the Time Warp wannabe, “Do the Necronomicon” is catchy and fun). A musical about five college kids hoping to enjoy a remote cottage getaway in the woods sounds promising, but the show looks more like a highly produced school play instead of a professional production.
According to the press materials, this show has been selling out in Canada for years. If true, levels of taste north of the border must be quite different than in the states. From what could be gleaned from the dialogue and lyrics, there’s more profanity and references to sexual organs in this musical than ever heard anywhere. The physical humor, aside from schlocky decapitations, severing of limbs and impalements with the requisite squirting blood, is all based on over-the-top sophomoric sexual jokes. Boobs and dicks, asses and tongues are featured prominently every five seconds. Luckily the Playhouse sells alcoholic beverages to be enjoyed during the production because being drunk is probably the only way to tolerate this drivel.
Technically speaking, Christopher Bond’s direction is serviceable, given his script requirements. Stacey Renee Maroske has created some peppy, high-powered choreography that this cast executes with terrific precision and enthusiasm. The few dance numbers actually stand out as the production’s best elements. Claudia Kada’s costumes work well and provide several breakaway pieces, such as Annie’s safari garb that gradually converts to a bikini. Lindsay Anne Black’s set, while obviously built to be portable, and offers a few simple special effects, bespeaks community theatre-level scenic quality. Gareth Crew’s lighting is concert-level bright and quite appropriate for this kind of show.
The aforementioned top-notch cast stars David Sajewich as the macho hero, Ash (so impressive in a number of other past Chicago productions). The man can sing, has ruggedly good looks and knows how to deliver lines directly to the audience with a knowing wink. Demi Zano, as his bookish sister Cheryl, is funny and handles her transformation between human and devil doll with finesse. She’s another actor whose gifted musical ability has been better appreciated in area productions. Callie Johnson, so remarkable in the title role of the recent Chicago production of “Carrie,” does double duty as demeaning, blond bimbo Shelly (with the bouncing boobs) and sexy protagonist Annie. Once again the actor brings polished professionalism to her iconic roles. Creg Sclavi is sometimes funny, but generally annoying as Scott; however he truly shines in the Act II musically choreographed numbers. Ryan McBride’s Ed finally blooms when he becomes a demon and he proves (as he’s done in past Chicago musicals like “Damn Yankees”) that he’s a musical theatre actor to be taken seriously. Andrew Di Rosa is one of the production’s best performers and was able to overcome the spotty microphones with his Broadway belt. As Jake, the young actor mines every ounce of humor possible and his musical talent is formidable. Julie Baird makes the most of ingenue Linda but, like her cast mates, truly shines in the choreographed numbers.
A musical satirizing a film that already satirizes the horror genre may be overkill (pardon the pun). This production, which is being billed as “Toronto’s Favorite Show” just doesn’t work, which is a shame since there’s so much talent involved. Featuring a gifted, attractive, hard-working cast who do everything they can to make this tacky script entertaining, the production might play better in a smaller storefront venue. As a professional touring production playing in the glitzy Broadway Playhouse, however, this is a very disappointing evening of Chicago theatre.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented September 24-October 12 by Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut, Chicago.
Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, at all BIC Box Offices, by calling them at 800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by going to www.theatreinchicago.com.