Review: ‘Evil Dead: The Musical’ by Deer In The Spotlight Productions at Motor House

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Evil Dead: The Musical is full of guts and gore and audience involvement, like Rocky Horror Show meets Little Shop Of Horrors meets Gallagher, as directed by Quentin Tarantino’s drunk half-brother. If this sounds like an ideal date, scoot on up to Motor House, part of the Station North Arts District on and around North Avenue in Baltimore City. Though Motor House is categorized as a gallery, it also contains a black box theatre, and this is the short-term home of Deer In The Spotlight’s production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

The cast of Evil Dead: The Musical, presented by Deer In The Spotlight Productions. Photo by Matthew Peterson/Machpe Photography.
The cast of Evil Dead: The Musical, presented by Deer In The Spotlight Productions. Photo by Matthew Peterson/Machpe Photography.

This is a niche show, popular with its fanbase, (dubbed Dead-ites), as evidenced by its nearly 30 productions in North America this month alone. From Anchorage, Alaska to Renton, Washington; from San Diego, California to Marietta, Georgia; from Little Rock, Arkansas to Rochester, New Hampshire; across Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Iowa, Florida and Texas, this show, a spoof on teen slasher flicks popularized in the ‘80s, seems to have elbowed its way to Halloween standard status.

Personal disclaimer: I haven’t watched many (maybe any?) teen slasher movies, cult classics notwithstanding. They’re not my “thing”–I’m more of a Hitchcock fan. Someone explained who Michael Meyers is (I thought he was an actor, Shrek, Austin Powers, SNL, right?) and I know Freddy Krueger wears a mask and has adamantium claws, but I have no notion of Evil Dead, which shouldn’t make much difference, but perhaps it does. All I know of this show going into it is that there exists what I incorrectly recall as a “gore zone,” officially named “the splash zone.”

Canadian comedy writer George Reinblatt is responsible for the musical’s book and lyrics, which are based on (and endorsed by) the work of the original film’s writer, Sam Raimi. Some of the lines and lyrics are amusing and clever. Some of them are sweary. Some of them describe themselves as “bad puns,” which stretches the definition somewhat. The plot is both tenuous and simple.

The cast members are clearly enjoying their roles, and the creative campy fun of the production. Michael Bliss as Ash bears a marked resemblance to Bruce Campbell, and finishes strongly. Steve Flickinger plays good old reliable Jake with Yosemite Sam glee, Jordan Baumiller as Ed is a fun Act II surprise, and Sydney Phipps is delightful to watch no matter whom she’s playing.

Director and company founder Bob Denton clearly enjoys every moment he’s involved in Evil Dead: The Musical, and applies himself distributing of some of the show’s signature fluids towards the end of intermission. Intermission is an excuse to refill drinks as well as use Motor House’s large, well-lit restrooms, while onstage there’s amusing chaos to observe, and a number of guests remain seated.

The musical numbers aren’t particularly original, but they are catchy. “Cabin In The Woods” does what it needs to in order to set up the whole thing, and it sounds nice. Though it’s not quite the Time Warp, and the audience is not encouraged to get up and join in, “Do The Necronomicon” is an energetic dance sequence with low spatter risk. As far as tech, the lighting worked, the set was sufficient and the sound was clear. The effects are numerous and mostly cheesy, which is evidently a beloved feature of this show, so cheese lovers, rejoice.

Should you go? Well, that depends. If you’re already a Dead-ite, of course you should. If you’ve never seen any of the Evil Dead series, or even heard of them, it might not be your thing. It is divergent, so for novelty factor alone, it has merit. Deer In The Spotlight’s Evil Dead: The Musical is good, messy, non-fourth-wall fun, executed with a high degree of enthusiasm. It’s undeniably an icon of contemporary pop culture, and everyone needs some of that in their lives.

Running Time: Two hours, including a fifteen-minute intermission.

Evil Dead: The Musical by Deer In The Spotlight Productions plays at Motor House, 120 West North Avenue, Baltimore, MD, October 26 & 27 at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets online.

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