When director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell made 1981’s Evil Dead, it is just possible they dreamed that one day their zero-budgeted gorefest would ultimately spawn comics, videogames, an army of hardcore fans, and two sequels. But even in their wildest imaginings, it’s doubtful they considered the possibility that the day would come when it was adapted into a musical. Yet, 25 years on, that is exactly what’s happened. Opening at New York’s New World Stages theater on Nov. 1, Evil Dead: The Musical (see the show’s website here) features an abundance of singing, dancing, and romance. Unlike most musicals, however, this tale of gruesome supernatural mayhem in a backwoods cabin also boasts a homicidal disembodied hand, a much-used chainsaw, a singing moose head, a song called ”All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” and a high risk of audience members being drenched in geysers of fake blood. EW spoke with the show’s co-creator and lyricist, Canadian comedy writer George Reinblatt, about the difficulty of turning a horror trilogy into an Off Broadway terpsichorean spectacular — and why the show is best seen drunk.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you were writing songs like ”All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” or ”What the F— Was That?” did you ever find yourself thinking, ”I wonder how Stephen Sondheim would have approached this”?
GEORGE REINBLATT: Um, not really. I just try to write the stupidest lyrics I can.
There’s more disrobing by the female characters in the play than I remember occurring in the films.
Well, you know what? You’ve got a musical written by a straight guy. These things happen! This musical is a bit different from others. There’s that, there’s a lot of swearing. People are drinking in the audience…
It was nice being able to take my intermission beverage back to my seat.
Oh, yeah, yeah. You can drink. I was really keen on that. Listen, I’m not delusional about my comedy. You’ll enjoy it if you’re sober. But you’ll enjoy it more if you’re not.
So, how did the words ”Evil Dead” and ”The Musical” come to be appearing next to each other in the first place?
It just seemed like a fun thing to do. The Just For Laughs comedy festival hires me every summer to write jokes for celebrities. But I was just a struggling guy. So, myself and two friends from university decided to put on this play. The Evil Dead films are so goofy, singing was the only thing they were missing! We did it small time in a bar three years ago and now we’re here! This is my first musical. It’s pretty crazy that my first songs have gotten so far.
Was it easy to get the rights?
In some ways it was a huge undertaking. We based the musical on the first two movies predominantly, but we also used elements of the third, and the three movies are owned by three separate companies in different countries. But everybody behind the Evil Dead films turned out to be the nicest guys. It would have been so easy for any of them to say no — like, Sam Raimi’s in the middle of Spider-Man making hundreds of millions in his sleep — but everybody said yes.
The show is as funny as it is gory. But, then, the films themselves have a strong Three Stooges vibe in the first place.
Oh, yeah. Everyone who’s a fan of the Evil Dead films knows that there are things that are supposed to be done goofy, or done poorly. And that’s what we try to do in the musical as well. We have a Tony award-winning set designer. He literally got off winning the Tony for Drowsy Chaperone, came to this right away and he’s making cardboard cars and toy planes that don’t look too good! It’s kind of cheesy on purpose. That’s the fun of the whole show. Sometimes it looks like its made by a second-grade class.
The first two rows of seats are a designated ”Splatter Zone,” meaning audience members should expect to get fake blood on them. But I was in the eighth row at the preview and almost got hit with the stuff. You think anyone’s going to complain?
I’m sure someone will. But it is amazing how many people want to be covered in blood. They’re disappointed if they don’t get covered in blood. The Splatter Zone has become the hot ticket. But I’m not going to lie. Sometimes the blood has got a bit crazy and hit row seven and stuff. Nobody’s completely safe.