Red all over: "Evil Dead: The Musical" is at ArtsWest, where a game cast deserves better material.
Before filmmaker Sam Raimi directed the “Spider-Man” movie and its sequels, he was known for his projects with strong cult followings, including television’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” and the feature film “A Simple Plan.”
His following began with his 16-mm horror hit from 1982, “The Evil Dead,” a wild, gory tale about demons terrorizing humans in a remote cabin. “The Evil Dead” still has enthusiasts, as do its two sequels, the self-parodying, operatic “Evil Dead 2” and the outlandish adventure “Army of Darkness.”
Since 2004, there’s been renewed life in the “Dead” franchise via the high-energy “Evil Dead: The Musical,” launched in Toronto and blessed by Raimi and Bruce Campbell (the star of all three movies) — and a sellout across the country.
Now it’s Seattle’s turn. ArtsWest’s good- natured production, directed and choreographed by Christopher Zinovitch with musical direction by Kim Dare, features a game cast with visible bruises attesting to the story’s intense physicality.
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Led by a strapping and satirically self-aware James Padilla — a perfect fit for Ash, the emerging hero first played by Campbell — the actors literally throw themselves into caricatured versions of the films’ clueless originals. But they could use better material. Their commitment underscores strengths and weaknesses of the show’s book by George Reinblatt, who merges distinct elements from Raimi’s trilogy in an intentionally lumpy, absurd reconstruction.
Gaps in logic are filled by funny songs skewering such pop-culture clichés as the bit-part characters who are automatically doomed in horror tales.
But where Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films were a springboard for his unhinged visual inventiveness and comic-book sensibility, “The Musical” offers little equivalent in explosive imagination. Long sessions of screaming for screaming’s sake and faux bloodletting upon sections of the audience get tedious. (Note: There is a “splatter zone” in the audience. Also, this show isn’t recommended for those under 16.)
Real inspiration finally arrives in the closing song-and-dance suite that includes a group zombie number, Ash’s arrival as a demon killer to be reckoned with and a savvy coda set in a superstore. All of that is unexpected and really pops in a way nothing else does.
The bottom line is that “Evil Dead: The Musical” could stand more development. The talent at ArtsWest deserves an upgrade.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com