Vampires are passé these days; it's zombies that are all the rage. With the popularity of AMC's Walking Dead series, the prevalence of city-sanctioned zombie walks in every major town across the country, and the recent 2013 remake of the cult classic Evil Dead, the wobbling undead are experiencing a resurgence in pop culture like never before.
And what could signify that these once-living hobblers are at the zenith of their popularity more than the fact that people are flocking to see them sing, dance, and run bloody amok in a musical theatrical production?
Yes, it's true, highly improbable though it may seem: Sam Raimi's cult classic Evil Dead franchise has been reinterpreted for the stage as Evil Dead: The Musical. Turns out, this ghoulish theatrical creation is quite the hit.
First brought to life (or would "exhumed" be more appropriate?) back in 2003 in Toronto by a group of hard-core Evil Deadheads, the production grew from a 90-seat theater to a prosperous stint off-Broadway just three years later. Returning home to Toronto in 2007, the smashing revival production went on to have a successful two-year run in that city's famed Diesel Playhouse -- making it the longest-running musical theatrical presentation in Canada's history.
And from there, in a fashion similar to the virus that turns humans into mindless creepy crawlers in the Walking Dead, the musical's campy infectiousness spread like gangbusters. More than 150 re-creations of this show have been made across the world, from South Korea to Cleveland and from Japan to New York City.
Currently on its first North American tour, the show is based largely on the plot of the original Evil Dead, taking fluid liberties from Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Don't worry: There is just enough validity here to win the admiration of Evil Dead purists (heck, producers have even re-created the movie's famed tree rape scene, much to the delight of fans). But where the original movies were kitschy and tongue-in-cheek, the musical expands on the over-the-top nature, with more raunchy gags, innuendos, and gratuitous gore than its celluloid predecessor. The New York Times even lauded this production as the next Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The story begins, as most horror flicks do, innocently enough, with five college students deciding to go party in an abandoned cabin in the woods. Unbeknown to them, Naturom Demonto, also known as the original version of the Book of the Dead, is hidden among the cabin's faulty pipes and flickering light bulbs. Despite clear warnings not to proceed, one of the characters finds said book and reads some of the text's scribbled English translations -- which unleashes an evil force that will ruin everyone's good time.
This is where the fun begins, however, as our hero Ash, much like in the movies, battles each zombie with his wits and his chainsaw -- and with an added shimmy here and a cheeky one-liner there. As Ash carves away at the head of another former friend (now undead foe) with his trusty chainsaw, nearby audience members are doused with blood.
Much like the Splash Zone in Sea World (except everyone here gets speckled with zombie blood versus Shamu splash), Evil Dead: The Musical touts a popular Splatter Zone. Those brave enough to sit in the first three rows of this production can expect to get absolutely drenched in ghoulish hemoglobin. It is a welcome component of the show for some, as audiences in other cities have been embracing the gore by dressing all in white.
On top of dismembered body parts bespattering fake blood everywhere, Evil Dead: The Musical comes packed with saucy musical numbers too. The lively "Do the Necronomicon" hints at the campy glee of "The Time Warp," and the doo-wop ballad "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons" is a genuine crowd pleaser. The f-bomb-laced "Ode to an Accidental Stabbing" is a romp-roaring rib-tickler. These salacious, innuendo-filled choruses were so popular that the cast album from the 2006 off-Broadway production debuted at number four on the Billboard showtunes charts.
A production even theater haters will love wrapped up in a musical made for the horrorphiles' heart, Evil Dead: The Musical provides entertainment for every whim and demon fancy.
Evil Dead: The Musical. Thursday to Saturday, November 20 to 22, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $36.50 to $73.50. Visit parkerplayhouse.com, or call 954-462-0222. Warning: This show contains strong language and ghoulish high jinx not suitable for children 12 and under.