Bloody 'Evil Dead' musical opens in Toronto
TORONTO - A blood-soaked Canadian stage comedy based on Sam Raimi's cult classic "Evil Dead" horror films officially opens in Toronto on Tuesday with a gala that is to be attended by several Canadian celebrities.
Canadian songstress Sarah Slean, rockers Billy Talent and folk/pop singer Ron Sexsmith are among those on the guest list for the premiere of "Evil Dead: The Musical," which sees fake bodies and monsters chopped all over the stage.
The show, which started previewing May 1, is having a limited run at the Toronto's Diesel Playhouse after a triumphant off-Broadway showing in New York City.
The campy musical follows a group of students as their vacation to a cabin in the woods turns into a nightmare, replete with gore, blood, demons and "Little Shop of Horrors"-style song and dance numbers.
The first row of the audience is called the "splatter zone," and yes, that means they get splashed with fake, washable blood. Those sitting in the area receive plastic ponchos before the show starts.
Jeffrey Latimer, the show's producer, says: "It's not gross, it's hysterical."
"As much as it sounds disgusting, the audience is cheering in hysterics because it's such an absurd thing to watch."
George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla and Christopher Bond - all friends from Queen's University - originally wrote the show as a small workshop production at Toronto's Transac Club.
That's where Latimer first saw it and suggested a few changes so that those who hadn't seen Raimi's series of films - 1981's "Evil Dead," 1987's "Evil Dead II" and 1993's "Army of Darkness" - would still understand it.
The show was later seen in Montreal as part of the Just For Laughs Festival before heading off to New York City last fall, where it received rave reviews and was called the next "Rocky Horror Show" musical. The off-Broadway version ended in February.
The show is co-directed by Bond and Tony Award winner Hinton Battle. It contains a lot of swearing, and as Latimer puts it: "There are a few grandparents who are taking their teenagers, but very few. It's not a show for seniors, it's not 'Forever Plaid,' it's not that feel because there's swear words in it. There's lots of swearing," he said.
"It's fun though, it's not malicious, there's not a moment of fear in the show and there's not a lot of sex. It's not dirty in that sense."
Toronto actor Ryan Ward, who has the lead role of the hero, Ash Williams, since the show's inception, will also be part of the cast in his home city.
Latimer, who has produced live theatre, musical productions and events in Canada for the past 15 years, says the return of "Evil Dead: The Musical" to its home country is "amazing."
"I hate to say this, but sometimes in our country we like to get that seal of approval from the Americans," said Latimer, who produced "Forever Plaid," which had a national run from 1994 to 1996.
"(After) being celebrated in New York, coming home is a great thing and I think it gives the show a little bit more, I don't know, puts it on a little bit of a pedestal and yet, it's got the same heart it had when it left here four years ago."