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Highway to the Splatter Zone

The "Evil Dead" musical embraces camp, self-awareness, and groovy gore

Does anything good ever come from going to a cabin in the woods? Maybe "Evil Dead: The Musical". Photo credit: Dennis K Photography

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The Evil Dead trilogy -- featuring, of course, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness -- became something of an unlikely success, creating an all-time great cult horror franchise, and ushering in the career of the great director Sam Raimi. I say that this was somewhat unlikely because the first two films (and arguably the third) were working with the already hoary trope of clueless teens venturing into the woods, discovering a demonic book, and unleashing hellish spirits. What Raimi brought to these films, with their tiny budgets, was a kinetically inventive style and a cartoonish sense of humor -- which would only increase as the series went on.

So, it's possibly the least surprising thing that The Evil Dead would eventually find its way to becoming an absurdly enjoyable musical. In a bit of an unexpected move, Tacoma Little Theatre has staged their own production of Evil Dead: The Musical, complete with a "splatter zone" on either side of the stage for audience members who don't mind donning ponchos and getting showered with fake blood. While there are plenty of warnings about "adult language, sexual situations," and all manner of violence, this is by no means what you might call an adult show. Rather, Evil Dead: The Musical appeals to the giddy 13-year-old in all of us: cheesy puns, zany slapstick, bodacious babes, righteous dudes, and gallons of blood are all on the table.

Ash (Zachary Edson), his bookish sister Cheryl (Molly Quinn), his girlfriend Linda (Ashley Roy), his best buddy Scott (Guy Taylor Sampson III), and Scott's new fling Shelly (Annelise Martin) all head out for a long weekend at an abandoned cabin in the woods. In short order, they'll discover that the cabin houses the Necronomicon, an ancient book bound in human flesh, which does nobody any good. Soon enough, folks are getting possessed, spectral voices are heard, and the trees spring to life (the musical thankfully omits that scene from the movies, for those who may be wondering). It's up to cocksure, department store employee Ash to become the hero we all knew he could be.

It's as simple as that! But what the story is missing in substance, it more than makes up for in hilarious performances from the whole ensemble. In smaller roles, Aleks Merilo and Eric Strachan make meals of their material. The show is staged dynamically by director Niclas Olson, who works wonders with moving the action repeatedly from the indoors to the outdoors, and back again, with quick set changes. And, once you first see the people in the splatter zone getting drenched with blood, it becomes a never-ending source of delight.

For TLT season ticket-holders who are used to seeing more traditional fare, this show may careen wildly out of left-field. On the Sunday matinee when I saw this, the audience was evenly split between what seemed like TLT regulars and punks with Misfits patches on their jackets. But part of Evil Dead: The Musical's fun is reveling in that kind of campy mayhem.

Evil Dead: The Musical, 7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Nov. 10, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St., Tacoma, $22-$27, 253.272.2281,

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