A new musical playing at The Park Theatre has audiences out for blood–in a good way.
Midway through its eight-show run, Evil Dead: The Musical is not your typical theatre production. Based on the 1981 cult horror film The Evil Dead and its sequels Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), the locally produced comedy tells the story of five college students who spend a night in an abandoned cabin in the woods, and inadvertently unleash an ancient evil curse unto the world.
Beyond the well-choreographed musical numbers and hilarious performances, the show prominently features evil demons, 40-50 litres of fake blood, and our hero brandishing a chainsaw and a shotgun.
Needless to say, the show is for adults only. It features strong language, sexual innuendo, and plenty of simulated gore.
Hardcore fans of the cult film franchise should already be familiar with the hilarious musical tribute that first premiered in Toronto back in 2003. The production has proven to be popular around the world, with one production currently embarking on a North American tour. Remarkably, this is the first time a production of Evil Dead: The Musical has been put on in Winnipeg.
“It’s a hard sell, trying to bring this show to a venue and telling them, ‘yeah and we’re going to spray blood all over your stage,'” said Corey Wreggitt, the director of the production.
The show opened to a sold-out late-night crowd on Oct. 29, filling the house the following two nights before taking a short break so the venue could host a wedding (of all things) and two screenings of another classic cult film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Featuring an all-Winnipeg cast and crew, the theatre’s stage had to be completely rebuilt to accommodate the impressive amount of practical effects that the musical requires. Wreggitt says Park Theatre owner Erick Casselman has been incredibly supportive of all the production’s needs.
“We have a lot of the same kinds of special effects that you would find in a low-budget horror movie–that works really well for film, but on stage it’s a whole different animal,” said Wreggitt.
Evil Dead: The Musical is one of the most unique theatre experiences out there. On top of the technical aspects that make the show special, a live band accompanies the performance on stage, as the actors work their way through the cleverly written dialogue and musical numbers.
People are encouraged to come out dressed up in costume as zombies or demons for each show, as audience interaction is a huge part of the production. General tickets are $25, but for an extra $10, you’ll get a poncho and a seat up close to the stage in the “splatter zone”–where fake blood sprays out into the seating area during the gory moments.
“It gets very, very messy. People were covered walking out of here,” said Wreggitt.
Producer Quinn Greene spends the majority of the show with the crew behind the scenes, making sure all the gags and effects go off smoothly.
“My goal is to just spray everybody, make sure everybody is covered,” said Greene, “because I know that they will be entertained by all the other elements and the amazing team that we have.”
The all-local cast does a great job capturing the light-hearted, funny tone that the musical requires. In spite of all the blood and gore, Evil Dead: The Musical is pure comedy. Given Winnipeg’s talented independent theatre and improv scene, and an obsession for cult films–the Park Theatre has been successfully screening interactive movie nights for the past two years–Greene was confident Evil Dead: The Musical would find its audience.
“One of the things that drew me to doing the show is we have a great improv community. I know a lot of the Dungeons and Dragons Improv guys and they do a fantastic job. Phantom of the Paradise, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Room–a lot of this stuff has gotten such a great response,” said Greene.
“I figured this is a town where people love to interact and they love live theatre not only because its interactive and all that stuff, but when you have something go wrong–and for this type of show we have a lot to cope with–our actors are so good to manage it.”
Greene is encouraged by the responses he’s heard from people who have already checked out the show. The cast invaded the RBC Convention Centre in full costume for the Central Canada Comic Con on Friday and Saturday, to interact and engage with what Greene considers their key demographic. Greene says one fan he talked to said the Winnipeg show was better than the production he had seen in Las Vegas.
“I wanted to make sure we delivered what we promised: a really funny show, a musically sound show, a lot of great talented singers and performers that are also good at acting as well,” said Greene.
Greene and Wreggitt have been involved in Fringe or independent film productions in the city over the past decade. Greene believes that Winnipeg shouldn’t downplay the immense talent that our city boasts.
“I think in some ways we feel like we’re a small town with small town sensibilities. I know especially our arts community has so many amazingly talented people, and sometimes I find that it’s difficult for productions from out of town to cast roles here because I think they see us as a small town as well.”
Evil Dead: The Musical has a string of five more shows, starting Nov. 5 before wrapping up for good on Nov. 9.
“The show itself is big and loud and kind of dumb, but those things are fun,” said Wreggitt. “We want people to come out, have a good time, have a few drinks and just laugh and enjoy the circus, the spectacle of it.”
Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketfly.com, or in person at the Park Theatre.
Photos by Marc Lagace