For those unfamiliar with Evil Dead, it is a comedy/horror franchise created by Sam Raimi that revolves around the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (an ancient Sumerian text which summons demons). Prior to seeing the musical, I had only seen Evil Dead II and the first 2 seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead (which was only really good for the first episode, in my opinion). After seeing the musical, I was left wondering why I hadn’t watched all 3 of the original movies. I loved Evil Dead II and I mostly enjoyed the television show.
This production was held at the Mansfield’s Cabaret in Oshawa, Ontario where I attended the February 15th show. I had been to a few musicals before (such as We Will Rock You and Wicked) so I was expecting a full-blown theatre production. However, the Mansfield’s Cabaret is a small, kind of worn down building and the audience was only about 25 in number. At first, I was put off by this but as the night went on, the show and the building defied my expectations.
Compared to a larger theatre production in an actual full-sized theatre, the Evil Dead musical felt more intimate and more engaged. Three rows of people sitting no more than 15 feet from the stage from the back row with washrooms and the concession being a 5-second walk away. And afterwards, the cast stuck around to talk to people which was quite interesting (side note: the cast was entirely local from the Oshawa and Toronto region).
The musical itself is well-written and is very Evil Dead in nature. There are scary moments as well as hilarious moments and the whole thing is entirely absurd. The self-awareness peaks as much as ever as the lines of dialogue and expressions of actors work both to undermine and progress the seriousness of the plot. The characters are interesting and the plot points feel like they flow naturally from one to the next.
As for this particular production, I was very pleased. I have not seen any other productions of this musical but the quality was steadily at a high for this one. The set was simply put together and props were used sparingly but effectively. The cast had great a dynamic with one another and there were many moments where mistakes were clearly made, but the actors took advantage of their own mistakes and turned them into laughs from the audience while the rest of the cast acted as if nothing had happened (which leads me to question whether some of those moments were mistakes at all, but I know for certain that a couple of them were).
Although the cast was great from top-to-bottom, there were 2 absolutely outstanding performances:
First, Michael Giel as Jake. This guy is expressive as hell and has a FANTASTIC singing voice. From his first appearance in the play, where he comes off as a mysterious yet terrifying figure, I was gripped. As his large figure looms mysteriously in the darkness, a sudden emotional change in both script and character flips the audience onto his side. At first we are unsure but then we are sympathetic. All of this is pulled off with miraculous effect by Michael Giel as he tells as many stories of his life through his facial expressions alone.
Second, Julia Carrer as Cheryl. God. Damn. This woman has a ridiculous amount of talent. From the moment the lights went up for the first time and the cast erupted in song and dance, I could tell that Julia’s performance was going to be a good one. The way she used her voice and body reflected a long history of vocal and dance training. Either that or her level of natural talent was ridiculous. But expecting just a “good” performance was a vast underestimation. Julia continually delivered beyond my own expectations with one of the best performances I have ever seen in a theatre production (not that I have seen many but I have seen a few). Absolutely admirable in her performance.
Although these two were stand-out performances, I have to re-iterate that the entire cast was great. Some of them were obviously more amateur than the two I mentioned, but that is not inherently a bad thing. It is a great thing. There is so much room for growth and maturity and I can’t wait to (hopefully) see more out of these people again because they all have so much potential.
Evil Dead: The Musical is a brilliantly written and put-together piece of entertainment theatre that stays true to most of the vision of the original films. Furthermore, the Oshawa 2019 production was a magnificent experience and one that I will not soon forget. From the intimate environment, to the brilliant actors, to the organization of the show (sound design, set design, etc.), this is something that deserves to be applauded and celebrated.
9/10 – Amazing