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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A Spirited Evil Dead: The Musical Haunts Arts West

Evil Dead: The Musical
(back row) Elise Campello, EmilyRose Frasca, Lisa Hill; (front) Ryan Demerick, James Padilla
Evil Dead: The Musical, the spirited and appropriate Halloween season musical at Seattle's Arts West Theatre, can't borrow the tagline from the musical Carrie, which famously was "There's never been a musical like her." From the premiere of the trend-setting Little Shop of Horrors, which remains far and away the best musicalization of any grade Z Hollywood shock-fest flick, there have been various attempts to equal and imitate its success, from Eating Raoul to Reefer Madness. Evil Dead: The Musical, has a book that's a reasonably funny rendering and mish-mash of the original Bruce Campbell starring film, with patchy but workable lyrics, both by George Reinblatt (additional lyrics by Christopher Bond), set to music by several less than household name composers (Reinblatt and Bond again, Frank Cipolla and Melissa Morris). What makes it worth a ghostly gallop to Arts West, where it has been exuberantly directed and campily choreographed by Christopher Zinovitch, is an engaging cast, a perfectly realized el cheapo set design by Dan Schuy, and kick-ass musical direction by Kim Dare at the keyboard of a terrific trio of musicians.

The plot is (get ready it goes by fast) a group of horny guys and gals break into a seemingly deserted cabin in the woods where the discovery of a Book of the Dead and tape where passages from it are read aloud, leads to demonic possession, death after death, and buckets of blood (amply strewn upon willing—and happily raincoat-supplied—front row audience members). The daughter of the professor who discovered the book and her nebbishy friend arrive, and soon only she and the studly leading male housebreaker Ash (the Campbell role) must ward off the seemingly endless threat of the undead.

As Ash, James Padilla, whose voice, presence and comic sense cry out for someone to revive Li'l Abner, carries the show, with a tireless and vocally impressive display of endurance. Padilla never winks at his material, which is what makes his deadpan performance all the better. As Annie, the intrepid and overbearing daughter of the Professor, Kate Jaeger unleashes her powerful voice and patented whirlwind force comic stylings, which helps the show really stay alive in act two, just when the predictable jokes are wearing thin. As Annie's vapid cohort Ed, Daniel Stoltenberg is quite amusing, delivering the closest the score has to a showstopper with his featured solo "Bit Part Demon," and Ryan Demerick is shameless and hilarious as the clinically horny Scott. Elise Campello as Ash's girl Linda is perhaps the most successful in transforming from goodtime girl to zesty zombie, while Lisa Hill as Ash's sister Cheryl, the first victim of the tale, could dial her comic energy up a notch. The ensemble's big dance number, "Do the Necronomicon," encourages its resemblance to a certain "Time Warp" number you may be familiar with, but is still an enjoyable blast of energy.

Sound levels have been a problem at every Arts West musical I have ever attended, and it was really annoying having to strain to understand the unfamiliar lyrics as a result. Otherwise, the tech heavy show sailed smoothly through its opening night performance, with a nod to Margo Walker's great white trash tear-away costumes. Much of the run was sold out pre-opening, a testament to the popularity of the films, and kudos to Arts West for landing this West Coast premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical.

Evil Dead: The Musical runs through November 20th at ArtsWest in West Seattle. For tickets or information contact the Arts West box office at 206-938-0339 or visit them online at www.artswest.org.


Photo: Michael Brunk

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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