EvilDead.jpgEvil Dead: The Musical officially came to life this month at New World Stages; we caught the show in previews, in a house packed with Evil Dead fans who reveled in every campy moment. The first two rows are given Gallagheresque ponchos and by evening’s end the audience in this so-called “splatter zone” is bathed in enough blood to run the Red Cross for a month. (If you’re grossed out by the amount of blood in Act One, you’ll never make it through Act Two.)

The cast faithfully parodies the formulaic ‘unsuspecting-teens-in-the-woods’ horror motif with all the strident enthusiasm of cheerleaders at a Homecoming pep rally. (That the slasher genre has been spoofed to death didn’t seem to detract one iota from the crowd’s delerious fun.) Even if you’ve never seen Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead pictures, the story will be familiar: Leading teen Ash leads his friends and sister to a secluded cabin for a weekend of softcore merriment. But when they find a tape recording of an ancient spell summoning the dead, they open up a whole can of evil that transforms the teens into zombies one by one.

Non-Evil Dead fans may very well be scared off during the first act, which grinds tediously onward under the weight of shamelessly puerile “jokes” (pubes stuck between teeth are no laughing matter) and the mostly synthesized score, which can be tinny and grating. The raucous extravaganza unfolds almost entirely in the haunted cabin, which is rigged with a number of (seemingly) inanimate objects that suddenly burst into song and dance, including an animatronic talking moose-head. Were it not for the graphic violence and R-rated stabs at comedy, the whole spectacle would work great as one of those family-fun theme park sideshows.

Of course anyone foolish enough to expect a night of compelling theater at Evil Dead: The Musical ought to have his head either examined or hacked off. And happily, the show gets progressively more, er, lively as the undead finally outnumber the living, leaving Ash all alone without a helping hand. (The challenge of recreating his sinister run-away hand for the stage is met ingeniously and comes off as funny live as in the movie.)

The second act is more like it, with some elaborately choreographed zombie chorus numbers and catchier tunes. There is much, much more blood and the jokes proudly graduate from Junior High to High School. Some of the musical highlights include a hilarious song about the hardships of being a “Bit-Part Demon”, always doomed to be slain by the hero in a mass, anonymous slaughter. “Do the Necronomicon” seemed to be the big show-stopper, but this was soon topped by the full demon spectacular “We Will Never Die.”

By the evening’s end, the production staggers back to life and delivers the goods, both for fans of the Raimi flicks and for anyone who enjoys a good gross-out. Gothamist recently interviewed one of the grown men behind this mayhem, Christopher Bond, who co-directed.

GOTHAMIST: How did the idea to turn this into a musical come about?

BOND: Back in 2002, I was in a production of Rocky Horror and I saw this really unique audience showing up every night. This was not a traditional audience and I wondered if there was a work out there that could generate the same type of audience as well as appeal to the mainstream. After watching Evil Dead 2 once, it was clear that it would be perfect to be a musical and also had that cult appeal that would put us over the top.

GOTHAMIST: What were some challenges you faced in adapting the Evil Dead films into a theatrical production?

BOND: It’s important that stay very true to the movies. Our fans are hardcore Evil Dead Heads and we would never want to disappoint them. So the films are our number one source for guidance and they’re employed in every facet of our piece (story, design, character, props, etc…..)

GOTHAMIST: Is Sam Raimi or anyone else involved in the movies planning on attending the show?

BOND: We are thrilled to announce that Bruce Campbell joined us on November 2nd and also did a “talk back” after the show for fans. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have Ellen Sandweiss (original Cheryl) and Tom Sullivan (original props master) visit us in the past. Be sure to check our website for more Evil Appearances.

GOTHAMIST: Lisa Robyn Mandel is named in the credits as the production’s “Blood Master”. When did you realize that it would be necessary to hire someone specifically to master the blood and how elaborate was the process to get the blood right?

BOND: We knew from day one. The blood is just as important as any vocals or choreography, especially when you’re in the world of Evil Dead. The blood is a special blend that Lisa mixes everyday and we go through gallons a week. When you have a show with a “splatterzone”, you’re going to need a pro!

GOTHAMIST: What has the audience response been like thus far?

BOND: Awesome. The Deadites love it and everybody else loves it. People who have never seen or even heard of the movies are also loving the show and rushing out to watch the movies. We really hit the nail on the head making a show that truly is for everybody.

GOTHAMIST: Any weird, spooky or funny things happen during rehearsals or previews?

BOND: Other than our casting director getting killed and eaten by Candarian demons…..nope, not really.

Evil Dead: The Musical is playing at New World Stages, located at 340 West 50th Street. Tickets may be bought online.