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Now Playing:
"Evil Dead: The Musical," June 20 - July 26, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.

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"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," August 14-24, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.

"The Black Man... Complex," August 20-22, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.

"Last Stop Chapin," September 5-20, Chapin Theatre Company, 240-8544.

"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," September 12-27, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.

"Five Guys Named Moe," September 18-21, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.

"Oklahoma," September 19 - October 11, Town Theatre, 799-2510.

"The Legends of Country Music Show," September 19-28, On Stage Productions, 351-6751.

"Grease," September 26 - October 12, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.

"The Foreigner: Dinner Theatre," September 28-29, Ritz Theatre of Newberry, 924-7158.

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"The Other Place," October 17 - November 1, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.

"The Dining Room," November 6-9, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.

"Cheaper By the Dozen," November 7-16, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.

"Much Ado About Nothing," November 8-17, Ritz Theatre of Newberry, 924-7158.

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"A Christmas Carol," November 21 - December 20, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.

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Trustus Theatre's Evil Dead: The Musical Is An Amusing Alternative to Traditional Stage Musicals

Review by August Krickel

Known for cutting edge productions and controversial themes, Trustus Theatre often turns to broader crowd-pleasers in the summer: revues of pop hits (Smokey Joe's Cafe, Ain't Misbehavin'), Tony-winners (Avenue Q), and cult favorites (The Rocky Horror Show.) Evil Dead: The Musical falls squarely into that last category, spoofing and homaging Sam Raimi's famous film trilogy. While the special effects are decidedly low-tech, the humor low-brow, and the bloodshed intentionally hokey, audiences ready to experience campy carnage set to bouncy music won't be disappointed.

No knowledge of the films is necessary. As explained in song, five college students head to an isolated cabin in the woods, and no one knows where they are; what could possibly go wrong?  There they accidentally unleash an arcane force of evil, which can animate everything from the surrounding trees to severed body parts, and possess humans before and after death. The first act follows the plot of the original movie, while the second act reflects the many years that passed until the sequel, in which hero Ash is decidedly older, cockier and more assertive. Random lines that mysteriously inspire wild applause from the audience stem from the third film, which was more of a comedy. Even plot inconsistencies in rookie screenwriter/director Raimi's story - he was barely 20 when shooting began - are replicated on stage, and mined for maximum comic effect.

As Ash, Michael Hazin looks and sounds the part. His struggle with his possessed hand is a triumphant display of physical comedy. Patrick Dodds plays best friend Scotty as a bit of a tool, leading to plenty of good one-liners. Elisabeth Baker is appropriately adorable as girlfriend Linda, while Abigail Ludwig, as Scotty's one-week stand Shelly, plays the quintessential sexy bimbo. Jodie Cain Smith has the biggest challenge, singing in character as Ash's nerdy sister Cheryl, then using a deeper, snarlier rasp to depict possessed Cheryl. Matthew DeGuire is backwoods bumpkin Jake, with Amy Brower as scholar Annie, and Trey Lawson as her overlooked boyfriend. Everyone is well-cast, with Brower taking top honors for most successfully embracing the over-the-top goofiness of the production.  Her every move is stylized, and her every line more dramatic than necessary. When characters recoil in fear from assorted demonic happenings, she manages to strike sultry poses reminiscent of Frank Frazetta illustrations, and as the mayhem continues, her costume conveniently rips to become more revealing.

George Reinblatt's script and lyrics are wickedly witty, and his eclectic score reflects his collaboration with three other composers. Some songs channel the doo-wop sounds of the early 60's, others are contemporary rock or Broadway-style pop, while at least one contains echoes of the "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen. Dodds and Hazin are up to this challenge, using strong operatic tones and melodramatic choreography as they sing the incongruous lyrics: "What darkness lurks beyond this wooden sanctum? What the f**k was that?"   Most numbers are vocally more challenging than one might expect, and musical director Randy Moore elicits a rich and appealing sound from his cast. Director Chad Henderson incorporates parodies of types of stage delivery and choreography that channel the inexperience found in the first film. Jeremy Polley’s sound design is filled with convincing shotgun blasts, chainsaw hums, and spectral voices. Baxter Engle contributes some spooky projections, and his set, co-designed with Brandon McIver, incorporates a steeply inclined rake, recalling Raimi's disorienting camera angles. Emily Deck Harrill is credited as "run crew," meaning that her assistance is vital for most of the special effects and transformations from human to demon.  Mirroring the B-movie roots and budget of the source material, most of these effects are ridiculously cheesy, but that's part of the fun. Just don't expect much beyond high school level quality.  While the visuals are purposefully unrealistic, I felt there could have been more grace with much of the fight blocking and choreography, which seemed awkward at times, especially with exits following lethal blasts and blows; fortunately, issues like these usually resolve themselves over the run of a show.

Bodies are dismembered by chainsaws, and stage blood squirts and splatters freely (although not as much into the designated "Splatter Zone" as you might expect), but the violence is so absurd that only the most prudish could find offense. The infectious score is surprisingly pretty, and the talented performers will have your feet tapping early on. Hardcore fans of the movies will flock to every performance to make their Evil Dead experience complete, while others should simply be forewarned as to the nature of this type of parody. Designed as an ode to fanboys and the schlocky shtick they love, Evil Dead: The Musical is an affectionate yet irreverent tribute to its cinematic source, and an amusing alternative to traditional stage musicals. 












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