Tough to dis a musical with a hummable tune called “What the Fuck Was That.” … We’re tough.
Don’t misunderstand: Evil Dead: The Musical is a bloody blast (there’s your out-of-context critic’s blurb, producers) that devolves into a hostage scenario (quote that part, we dare ya). Escaping David Saxe’s V Theater nearly three hours after you’ve arrived, you’ll have the oddest feeling of being captivated for much of this show, and a captive of it by the end.
Sending up Sam Raimi horror flicks with balls-to-the-wall zeal, Evil Dead is the first show born in community theater (at the Onyx) to advance to the Strip. Kudos to producer Sirc Michaels—who welcomes the crowd with a profanity-riddled warm-up in a demon getup.
Applaud the satire-savvy cast, too. Cutting up amid decapitated heads, severed limbs, chainsaws, zombie masks, talking moose heads, exposed intestines, spritzing blood and leering sex gags straight out of vaudeville, these actors don’t chew scenery. They gorge on it, swallow it whole and projectile-vomit it back at the audience. Tons of freakish fun that makes you want to jump up and join them. For a while.
Mostly, Michaels & Co. need to keep an eye on the clock. Opening night, the 10 o’clock Friday show didn’t start seating theatergoers till 10:04, and begin until 10:20. (Saturday shows start at 11:30 p.m.) Intermission was an interminable 25 minutes, and the second act seemed to have not one but three climactic numbers. Shortening scenes with some slicing and dicing would immensely benefit the slashing and dismembering.
Another annoyance: fake-blood splatter isn’t limited to the “splatter zone,” as patrons (including this one) a bit farther back were also sprayed. Excuse the spoilsport vibe, but that cranberry juice-like liquid? Hope you like splotchy clothes.
Still, all of this seemed just peachy to the debut-night crowd, loaded with boisterous fans from its community incarnations. Will tourists be as tolerant of having their patience tried and their clothes dry-cleaned? Doubtful—which could leave Evil prematurely dead. Ever been to a party where a gregarious guest is hilariously entertaining at 8:30 but not so much by 1:30? That’s Evil Dead. The party guest that won’t leave. Or more accurately, the party host who won’t let you leave.
NOSH ON NOTES: Two summertime gigs warrant special notice, both at The Smith Center. Debate the merits and demerits of Broadway shows in Vegas, but what’s not debatable is that one person embodies Broadway more than any other still breathing, and that man—Stephen Sondheim—is Vegas-bound. On July 14, the legendary composer arrives to reminisce about his storied career, punctuated by performances by Christine Ebersole and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Worship Broadway? Catch this can’t-miss night. Same goes for fans of exquisite jazz singing, who shouldn’t pass up Diana Krall on Aug. 13. You won’t hear finer interpretations of the American songbook from anyone in front of any microphone. Plus, the lady’s voice is sex itself … and we’ll leave it at that.
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: One zombie in Evil Dead likens her flesh cravings to “Dom DeLuise at an all-you-can-eat fish house,” getting zippo laughs from the youngish crowd. Funny and adorable as we found the late, portly comedian—who didn’t seem the fish-eating type—the reference needs a contemporary rewrite. Perhaps … Zach Galifianakis at a deep-fried Twinkies stand.