Movie ReviewsIan ArbuckleComment

Evil Dead - The Musical

LABEL: Time Life
MSRP: $18.98

Who'd have thought that "geek musical" would become a subgenre on Broadway? The unusual success of Spamalot caused, if nothing else, a mayfly Internet meme about unlikely properties being adapted for musical theater. Usually, the related jokes ended with something along the lines of "Whoa, Dr. Zaius!"

You probably remember lurking in the eaves of the Internet a few years back when it was announced that some enterprising individuals were assembling a musical based on Sam Raimi's Evil Dead film. Maybe you weren't lurking, but right in the thick of it, crying your bemusement like a baby elephant separated from its herd. Nobody was afraid that Raimi's cult classic would be ruined by the adaptation, but rather that the creators would embarrass themselves with the combination of two palatable tastes that do not taste great together. Kinda like peanut butter and banana. It's gross, people.

I haven't seen the show, so any criticisms I might level at its success or failure can only be based on the sketchy plot conveyed by the songs and brief dialogue sequences included on this soundtrack. With that in mind, it's worth noting that Evil Dead: The Musical has a completely different understanding and application of the word "camp" than did its inspiration. Where Raimi and company indulged in the trappings of exploitation to make their film, the producers of The Musical dive into the irony of overstatement, the kind of broad comedy that seems to serve my generation well. Neither are subtle in their humor or horror, but their methods of being obvious diverge noticeably. In the musical's case, there's a point at which winking at the audience ceases to be sly.

It's plain that The Musical was designed for fans of the film, not as an introduction either to the world of The Evil Dead or of musical theater. Without something of a history of enjoyment of both (this is an "and" gate, not an "or" gate) the audience isn't likely to get much more than a chuckle out of this soundtrack. This isn't a criticism that will hold much weight, but it's almost as if the show's creators kept their audience too much in mind during production. With a focus tightened down on a small cross-section of horror/theater fans, their campy attitude alienates most everyone else.

Since you're reading CHUD, you may well be part of that cross-section, anyway, and can safely ignore the above paragraph. (Too late.) For those audience members who do possess all the qualities of the perfect crowd, there's no shortage of fun to be hand with this disc. The songs possess the harmless, insistent melodies of popular theater, and the familiar plot is punctuated nicely by their inclusions. My favorite is a duet by Ash and his pal Scott, shortly after things start to go amiss, titled "What The Fuck Was That?"

The sections created wholly for the show fire less solidly on their cylinders, making the two-act CD stretch longer than a concentrated listen would like. With all the gore, plus the more physical contributions of god-man Hinton Battle (remember him as the dancing demon in Buffy's "Once More With Feeling" episode?) I'm sure the show would captivate, but the CD doesn't function well as a substitute. That's just speculation on my part.

With a sound that is decidedly not sterile, a wealth of largely memorable tunes, and a cast that seems to understand and revel in the absurdity of their characters, this soundtrack has a good chance of contributing some fun times to the target audience. It's safe to assume the intention of the show-runners was to provide exactly that. The only downside is that compressing a stage show into a purely auditory medium means the disc is probably meant more as a touchstone to your hypothetical fond memories of watching the show. If you don't live anywhere near off-Broadway, though, this disc might be your only hope of hearing the phrase "testicle fondue" sung in a warbling alto.