News Column

There will be blood at the Prince Music Theater

September 27, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 27--MUSICALSALL THOSE CATS AND TEENAGERS AND FIDDLERS BURSTING INTO RANDOM SONGS IN THE MIDDLE OF KNIFE FIGHTS OR RAINSTORMS -- REQUIRE A SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF I'M USUALLY INCAPABLE OF. -- all those cats and teenagers and fiddlers bursting into random songs in the middle of knife fights or rainstorms -- require a suspension of disbelief I'm usually incapable of.

But give me an ancient book bound in human flesh, a creaky, old cabin in the woods and a bunch of dumb college students getting possessed by demonic forces, and I'm spellbound.

To be fair, I haven't seen many musicals and likely won't. But when I first heard that the unholy film trinity, "Evil Dead," "Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn" and "Army of Darkness (Evil Dead III)" was being melded into a musical years ago, I went straight to Broadway to see it.

My only complaint was that I didn't get to sit in the "Splatter Zone" close to the stage, where the audience is sprayed with gallons of fake blood during the show. There will be blood here in Philadelphia, finally, for the next couple of weeks, and I'll be wiping it off my teeth this time, because I'll be smiling.

"This show contains explicit language, comic horror violence, gore and tons of fun. Parental discretion is advised," the advertisement on the Prince Music Theater website reads, quite appropriately.

"Evil Dead: The Musical" opened Wednesday and runs through Oct. 20. The show, which combines elements of all three flicks, opened in Toronto in 2003. Critics loved it.

Most of the credit goes to Sam Raimi, of course, the shoestring auteur who directed all three films with a quirky mix of camp, comedy and creepiness that seemingly can't be reproduced by other horror directors today.

Yes, there are limbs flying around, but it's fun in the weirdest way. You will laugh. Out loud.

The heart of "Evil Dead: The Musical" is Ash, a tortured housewares clerk who was played in the films by the great -- yes, great -- Bruce Campbell. Ash battles his possessed girlfriend, other denizens of the underworld and his own hand-gone-mad, all while losing his mind and other important things along the way.

At the Prince, actor Ryan Ward fires up the old chainsaw and "boomstick" as Ash, the role he originated. Staging is by the musical's co-creator and original director, Christopher Bond.

Raimi did not have music in the films, but the geniuses who wrote the catchy "What the F--k Was That?," "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons" and "Blew that B-- Away" in the musical deserve mention. Irving Berlin has nothing on them.

Ponchos will be provided to anyone willing to sit in the Splatter Zone. The blood comes out in the wash, but the show will stick.

Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., through Oct. 20, showtimes vary, $25-$65, 215-972-1000, princemusictheater.org.

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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