Friday, 30 August 2019 18:53

Review: Barn Theatre’s ‘Evil Dead’ is an instant cult classic

Written by  Marin Heinritz
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The Barn Theatre has a way of playing to its strengths, which turns out to be all kinds of things, from big sweeping musicals to off-color farces to classic dramas to rock operas to family friendly comedies and beyond. They’ve offered much of that this year in their 73rd summer stock season, but to bring this excellent season to a close they’re offering something completely different—that yet also plays to their strengths as comedians, character actors, as well as phenomenal singers and dancers.

“Evil Dead The Musical “is a kind of instant cult classic, a spoof of ‘80s teen slasher movies that’s appealing even to those who are unfamiliar with Sam Raimi’s series of Evil Dead films. The New York Times described the Broadway production as wanting to be and likely succeeding as the next “Rocky Horror Show.” It’s no accident that The Barn is legendary for their productions of Rocky Horror—and just announced they'll be bringing it back in October. 

Directed by Brendan Ragotzy, “Evil Dead The Musical” is a gory, campy, riotous, filthy, hilarious, bloody, beautifully inappropriate, idiotic, murderous romp.

Based on the original 1983 film, with story and punny lyrics by Canadian comedy writer George Reinblatt, the musical is about five college kids who rent a cabin in the woods where they stumble upon a 13th century book of the dead as well as a demonic recording. Thereafter they become possessed, one after another, despite hunky Ash’s best attempts to stave off evil forces with every weapon imaginable, from a chainsaw with which he has a funny solo fight scene and that decapitates his girlfriend, to a sawed-off shotgun to a dagger and more. 

It’s stupid ridiculous, and that’s the point. Except this cast is so brilliant you can’t help but appreciate their gorgeous singing, perfect timing, physical comedy, and off-the-wall characters. Jonnie Carpathios’s Ash is totally dreamy, totally deadpan, and the voice he creates for the character is a scream; and he and Cosette Smith as his girlfriend Linda are wonderful together. Samantha Rickard is pitch perfect as his sister Cheryl; mousy and  underestimated, she gets her comeuppance. Molly Hill and Melissa Cotton Hunter are hysterical as uniquely over-the-top strange sexpots; Christian Edwards and Justin Mathews give especially funny physical performances; Patrick Hunter is in every way extra as road kill swinging hillbilly Jake, and yet sings the hell out of goofy songs with his trademark tenor; Hans Friedrichs as Knowby and Charlie King as the mounted moose head both bring more to their respective roles than anyone has a right to expect.

And it is a musical, after all, and as such, they all bring their all to Jamey Grisham’s silly yet delightful choreography, part Thriller, part Time Warp, all kinds of corny dance moves like the robot and the sprinkler, all of it executed beautifully. Musical Director Brent Decker and his band make the eclectic score sound fantastic: from the super-catchy ensemble number “Cabin in the Woods” to Melissa Cotton Hunter’s fabulous doo-wop “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Canadian Demons” to the big dance number “Do the Necronomicon” and especially stand out solos from Johnnie Carpathios and Patrick Hunter.

Steven Lee Burright’s set, full of fun tricks and bells and whistles to bring us into the woods as well as the supernatural, works beautifully with Michael McShane’s inventive lights, Kenze Carlson’s sound, and Sam Rudy’s props that are completely necessary to execute the story with such dramatic hilarity.

It’s all outstanding, frankly, whether you consider yourself a “Dead-ite” or not. It’s a much-needed night of belly laughs for which you can later appreciate just how much extraordinary talent inspired them so seemingly effortlessly. And who knows, maybe The Barn’s “Evil Dead” will become their next “Rocky Horror,” brought back year after year. See it now so you can say you remember when it all began.

Evil Dead

Barn Theatre

Through Sept. 1

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