What do you get when you mix a love story, camp horror, sheer ridiculousness, and gallons of blood? You get one of the hottest shows on the Las Vegas Strip. With world renown shows like “Cirque du Soleil” headlining on the main stages of numerous Sin City hotels, it’s actually quite surprising that a show titled “Evil Dead the Musical 4D” would even register on the tourism radar, but it does; and with plenty of reason. Las Vegas’ production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” is a fresh installment on a craze that continues to slowly sweet across the nation
“Evil Dead: The Musical 4D” encompasses the entirety of the film “trilogy”. Mixing (and eliminating) characters, scenes, and elements from “Evil Dead”, “Evil Dead 2”, and “Army of Darkness” allows the musical to effectively tell the story of five ignorant teenagers and the growth of a simple S-Mart employee.
Currently housed at the V-Theater in Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops, the Sirc Michael’s directed and produced show is headlined by a cast that all too well fits into their respective horror stereotypes – and this show is (purposefully) filled with them. Brian Roark excels as Scott, the thick headed best friend to the show’s star, Ashley “Ash” Williams, while Sarah Willick falls perfectly into her role as the star’s ill-fated girlfriend. Nicole Unger takes on the difficult task of portraying both Shelly and Annie, two characters with extremely differing personalities and moral standings. John Tomasello surprises as “good ‘ole reliable” Jake and provides a new level of comedic relief after Scott’s untimely disposal and Lorie Palkow fits the role of Ash’s spunky, albeit over the top, sister well. While it’s unfair to single one individual out from such a loveable and memorable cast, Ben Stobber somehow winds up stealing the show as the headline character, Ash. Taking cues from the character’s roots, as originally portrayed by Bruce Campbell, Stobber channels all the right notes by successfully portraying Ash’s transformation from near insufferable dork to the chainsaw wielding hero.
A cast can only be as good as the writing, and “Evil Dead” surprises with clever anecdotes of typical horror scenarios, smart dialogue, and recognizable catch phrases that the audience finds impossible to not say in unison. The musical score is filled with songs that embed themselves in your brain, such as the tango inspired “What the F**k Was That” and the show’s staple love song, “Housewares Employee”. Each performer has the ability to carry a tune well, which simply helps amplify the clever and catchy nature of the performance’s 15 songs. Unfortunately, due to the theater’s small size and awful accoustics, there were times where lyrics were completely indaudible, though it was far from a show stopper.
Set design is fairly basic, which is expected when dealing with such a small theater. Transitions from different scenes is a little rough, but can be forgiven considering the style of the show itself. The set designer, Tim Burris, works with the small space to convey all necessary elements and oftentimes sacrifices realistic scenarios for the sake of the performance. Matching Burris’ clever working of the small stage is Lori Steele and her work on the performance’s costume design. Ash’s staple attire is spot on and Steele is able to avoid the need for heavy make-up with removable Deadite masks. It may be a “low budget” technique, but the masks are effective and closely resemble the source material.
No matter how good the rest of the show is, nothing about it can compare to the experience of sitting in the “Splatter Zone”. Acting as a pseudo-VIP section, the Splatter Zone seats guests in a make-shift arrangement of seating at the very front of the theater. The floor is coated in a plastic tarp, which is the second indication that things are bound to get messy; the first being the crisp white T-shirt you receive before the start of the show. The Splatter Zone is what earns this iteration of “Evil Dead: The Musical” it’s “4D” tag as it immerses the audience in the show in a way that only the most deranged of minds could think of. In sync with on-stage deaths or dismemberments, the Splatter Zone audience members will be on the receiving end of a fountain of “blood” that sprays from all angles of the theater – including on stage. The Splatter Zone allows the audience the chance to be in the moment during scenes like Ash’s infamous self-amputation or when Scotty decides its time to completely empty his “bladder”. It’s certainly the best way to experience “Evil Dead: The Musical”, but luckily the rest of the performance is enough to entertain those not brave enough to endure hot (and somewhat sweet) blood.
“Evil Dead: The Musical” embodies true camp horror through its clever selection of cast, location, and implementation of the much-talked about Splatter Zone. This musical is an ode to horror without taking itself seriously in any way, shape or form. It’s an overall enjoyable experience that is almost impossible not to get addicted to, which, in the long run, isn’t a problem thanks to comparably affordable ticket prices.
Though many may clamber for the production values of many of Sin City’s stage performances, it would be a crime for “Evil Dead: The Musical 4D” not to get the just credit it deserves. While it would be nice to see it showcased on a stage much bigger than that of the V-Theater, any potential at loosing the Splatter Zone should be avoided at all costs. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, “Evil Dead: The Musical 4D” should be on your must-see list; and with shows running every Friday and Saturday night, it’s an easy thing to fit into your busy schedule.