Horror and musicals don’t go together often but when they do, they can produce something bloody and magical.
This month, just in time for Halloween, the Arts Center Theatre (ACT) in Plano will host a run of Evil Dead: The Musical starting on Friday, Oct. 21. The horror musical comedy based on the cult Sam Raimi horror trilogy runs concurrently with a live production of The Rocky Horror Show starting on Friday, Oct. 14.
“Both of them have a really hardcore fan base, especially with the blood effects,” says director Bo Benny. “People expect to go to Evil Dead: The Musical and get splattered.”
Evil Dead: The Musical is just what it sounds like — a musical retelling of Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead film trilogy. The movies tell the story of a group of friends in a remote cabin in the woods who “weren’t supposed to be there in the first place” and who accidentally find the Necronomicon, an ancient tome inked in blood and bound in human flesh. The Necronomicon’s passages contain bizarre incantations that can open a portal allowing puppeteering demons to inhabit the bodies of the living turning them into “Deadities.”
The only survivor of the first film is (spoiler!) Ash, played through all three films and the Ash vs. Evil Dead show on Starz by Bruce Campbell. During the course of the three films, Ash transforms from a whiny, nebbish dork into a macho, catchphrase-spouting hero who slices off his own hand when it becomes infected with evil and attaches a chainsaw to the stub to fight the wave of evil sweeping the land.
“The main character Ash is there with his sister and friend and everyone starts dying,” Benny says. “So we see Ash turn from a nerdy S-Mart employee into a hero.”
Of course, the only difference between the three films – The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn and Army of Darkness – is the singing and choreographed numbers by the human survivors as they transform into singing and dancing Deadities. Even Ash’s severed hand and the stuffed moose head hanging over the fireplace dance and sing a couple of tunes as nods to the original films.
“Evil Dead is going to be a good launch point because it’s very bloody and very campy,” Benny says. “This is a show where the rehearsals we should roll tape on because the choices the actors make to take to their characters are so funny.”
Benny’s not kidding when he calls the show “bloody.” The stage, actors and even the audience get doused in buckets of the stuff with every performance. The theater sets aside the first two rows of chairs as “the Splatter Zone” in which guests are regularly doused with fake blood.
“The complications with the blood is creating a recipe where it’s not going to stain clothes or sting if it gets in their eyes,” Benny says. “We concocted it with Carrie. The complicated part is the clean-up and getting the stage ready for Rocky Horror.”
Evil Dead: The Musical and Rocky Horror are perfect for the Halloween season because of the scares and creepy scenes built into the production and the story. A show is doing something right when a musical number can produce laughs and scares in the same gasp.
“You’re never gonna know what happens,” Benny says. “We’re blocking a lot of scare tactics into it for the audiences. It’s very cheesy and campy. There’s a lot of puns in the show that bring out groans but I believe the hardcore fan base is part of the attraction to it.”
Evil Dead: The Musical will have nine performances every Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. until closing night on Sunday, November. 6. The show is rated R for “restricted” meaning guests aged 17 and under will require the accompaniment of a guardian to watch the show.