James Thompson & Ariana Hart in Evil Dead, The Musical. Photo: Mind’s Eye

Evil Dead, The Musical

Music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris & George Reinblatt
Book & lyrics by George Reinblatt
Directed by Kevin Butler

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

It has been years since I attended a play for which the first few rows were declared a “splatter zone” and equipped with disposable plastic rain ponchos to shield oneself against the shower of fake blood and other fluids in key scenes. This was once a common feature of shows at the now-defunct Alley Theater, where this very show was given its Louisville premiere.

Evil Dead, the Musical is from the school of sublimely silly theatre, where it is nearly impossible to play anything too broadly and a wink and a nod to the audience is far too subtle. It plays well to a deeply devoted, near-cult following for the original Evil Dead movie trilogy directed by Sam Raimi that has easily carried over to this musical. In his curtain speech, director Kevin Butler acknowledged audience members who had driven 11 hours to attend this production. 

If you really don’t know, Evil Dead is the quintessential “cabin in the woods” horror narrative. Raimi didn’t invent it, but he did elevate it to the type of self-referential pop-culture atmosphere pioneered by Star Wars. The first movie was somewhat serious and disturbing, but the two sequels are as much comedy as horror and the musical adaptation pushes further in satirizing the tropes of an overly-familiar subgenre.

The familiarity is the point, and people who travel to watch Evil Dead, the Musical are confident about what they will find. Kevin Butler and Mind’s Eye Theatre do not disappoint them.

An effectively modest set is the platform for an energetic cast to romp through the story. James Thompson is one of the nicest guys in Louisville theatre, but he relishes the opportunity to embrace the crazy and bloody violence of Ash, while Sean Turley chews through the character of his best friend, Scott, with equal pleasure. As Ash’s girlfriend, Linda, Laura Egan Krauser has a good singing voice and like the entire ensemble, is game for anything. Ariana Hart has a blast once she becomes the Candarian demon in the cellar and Greg Collier proves once again that he is always an indispensable comic presence.

They do justice to the sharp and irreverent score, as much a satire of Broadway scores as it is horror films, featuring titles such as, “Evil Trees”, “Good..Bad..I’m The Guy With The Gun”, and my favorite, “What The Fuck Was That?”

There is good choreography by Valerie Canon, although the big production number, “Do The Necronomicon” felt somewhat strained by the limitations of the stage. The musicians were a crack four-piece led by Musical Director Nina Esinueva while David Taylor’s Sound Design was comically scary and Nick Dent gave the lighting a good workout with appropriately schlocky effects. 

As for the splatter zone, it is very real and not to be scoffed at. Butler and crew have no shame when it comes to giving the front rows a good soaking, a coarse but effective gag that produces an uproarious audience reaction.

Featuring Greg Collier, Ariana Hart, Lindsey Jones, Laura Egan Krauser, Mark Merk, Gabriel Petri, James Thompson, Sean Turley, & Bethany Whitney 

Evil Dead, The Musical

October 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, &  21 @ 7:30 pm
October 22 @ 4:00 pm 

Mind’s Eye Theatre Company
Highview Arts Center
7406 Fegenbush Lane
Louisville, KY 40206

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.