You don’t need to be an expert on cheapo horror movies to enjoy Evil Dead: the Musical at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
But a little hint of the genre being parodied would help you get past its biggest negative: the off-putting opening which seemed to center on a horny male named Scotty shouting “Stupid bitch” at his female companions. It’s justified by this convention:
Every cliché-ridden horror flick that puts spring break buddies in a secluded cabin where incantations from a Book of the Dead unleash demons evidently requires a jerk who demeans women. The good news is that it provides a character one hopes will be the first to fall victim to the upcoming slaughter.
If this doesn’t sound like fun, words fail me. It grows on you, thanks especially to the two most important characters, the heroic Ash played by Brian Zealand and brave Annie, the sexy daughter of the scientist who discovered the cabin’s dangerous book.
She’s Amanda Rounds, who first plays Shelly, the bimbo who supplies sex on command to Steven Michael Shelton’s jerk, and then does Annie in safari khakis with animal print undies.
Suffice it to say, she offers the eye candy and heavy breathing to match Zealand’s heroics, and that’s more than good enough for this sort of confection.
Zealand does the heavy lifting, namely sawing off his hand and his girlfriend’s head with a chain saw which eventually became an extension of his arm. Severed hand and head, by the way, provide the opportunity for sexual double entendre, plus free-squirting blood.
I wasn’t as impressed with the blood effects as with the severed hand, which at one point ends up grabbing a comely tush.
Lindsay Tierney plays the girlfriend, a giggly thing eager to jump the hero’s bones, and Lauren Koll plays Ash’s sister Cheryl, the required scaredy-cat who gets demonized and keeps popping out of the cellar’s trap door.
If you can understand her gravelly demon voice, you’ll enjoy her performance more than I did. Fortunately, she was crystal clear when putting the jerk in his place with “Who’s the stupid bitch now, Scotty?”
Director Carl Beck lets his cast go way over the top and it works perfectly for this script, but never better than when Jared Dailey shows up as “good old reliable Jake,” a hefty bumpkin with horrible teeth and ominous demeanor. Thomas Gjere may not be that colorful as Annie’s friend Ed, but his conversion to demonhood awards him one of the better songs, “Bit-Part Demon,” reminding that horror flicks need expendable characters.
(Older readers minimally exposed to this genre should recall the World War II films where you’d meet the diverse members of an infantry squad and pretty well guess who’d be the first to die.)
Perhaps the bit that best represents the parody of the cheap thrillers comes when the frightened Cheryl departs the cabin into the woods after announcing that, naturally, being terrified and all, she’s venturing out alone.
You may not go home humming the musical’s tunes, the likes of “Look Who’s Evil Now,” and “What the F—k Was That?” (I went through most of my life without knowing the eventual significance of my initials, WTF.) But the songs fit the show’s sendup style, and don’t require great voices.
One title, “It Won’t Let Us Leave,” captures traditions going back to even Agatha Christie putting characters in a setting from which there’s no escape. As for the script, it’s not Eugene O’Neill, but you’ve got to enjoy it when newcomers burst in a cabin and find a bloody Ash saying, “It’s not as bad as it looks,” despite bodies strewn on the floor.
Evil Dead: the Musical runs Feb. 8 to March 17, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Howard Drew Theatre in the Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Tickets are $40, $24 students. Call 402.553.0800.