‘Evil Dead: The Musical’ to take stage at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre
The blood-soaked horror comedy of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” series is revered among genre fans, but a staged adaptation of the tale told in the cult-classic films is introducing the story to new audiences.
“Evil Dead: The Musical” will take the stage at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, and the production, which debuted in Toronto in 2003, has earned a reputation for being accessible to “Evil Dead” die-hards as well as fans of comedy and musical theater in general with its mixture of witty humor, memorable music and playful gore.
The musical takes plot elements from “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead 2” — the two films tell the same basic story with different budgets and levels of comedy — and mixes in some details and the humor-forward tone from “Army of Darkness” to re-create the story of five college students who encounter a demonic presence in a cabin in the woods.
Merritt Crews, who portrays both Shelly and Annie Knowby — whose occult knowledge aids hero Ash in his fight against evil — said production creators, with the blessing of original Ash actor Bruce Campbell and writer/director Raimi, took their true love of the films and “cult schlocky horror” in general and created a comic “sendup,” or parody.
“That’s how we came to have this wonderful, beautiful, hilarious, bloody thing,” Crews said.
And bloody it is.
For patrons who want to take audience interaction to levels of saturation, top-tier tickets reserve a seat in the Splatter Zone, where show-goers get showered in the red liquid as characters are summarily dispatched by demons.
“We make a comment about it in the pre-show announcement,” Crews said. “’Don’t worry; the blood washes out quite easily.’ I think that tells you what you need to know.”
Although cast members subsequently meet their demise in typical horror-plot fashion, Crews said musical numbers are delivered by an ensemble throughout the play.
“It does whittle down, but they throw in some extra funny songs you wouldn’t expect just from watching the movies,” she said. “The fact that demons can come back (to life) certainly helps.”
A classically trained actor, Crews said she never expected to play a blood-thirsty demon.
“But I’m glad I am,” she continued. “There’s so much fun to be had in the comedic timing of this show. Having a cast that’s this close, we can have a lot of fun with each other within the confines of the script.”
And beyond her role as cabin-kid-turned-demon Shelly, Crews gets into character as professor’s daughter and archaeologist Knowby, who possesses pages of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (Book of the Dead) and helps Ash translate it.
“She’s with her boyfriend Ed (when she arrives), and there’s a wonderful twist on him, although I won’t give it away,” Crews said with a laugh.
Crews said she enjoys carrying on the legacy of such beloved stories and that she’s seen some groups return to the show multiple times — often donning new white T-shirts to show the effects of the Splatter Zone — after an initial viewing.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It feels very special. It’s remarkable when people say lines along with you, when Ash holds up his gun and says ‘my boom stick’ and the audience says the lines along with him. These movies are now canon.”
And although the production is recommended for ages 12 and older (with parental discretion advised) because of violence, gore and adult content, Crews said the production appeals to most and patrons don’t have to be fans of “Evil Dead” to enjoy the show.
“If you love to laugh, you’ll love this,” she said. “People who don’t like musicals love this. The comedy is just that accessible, and the music is that catchy. It doesn’t matter what you think you like.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Evil Dead: The Musical’
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 30
Additional information: Tickets range from $13.13 to $46.66 and are available at the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.