Evil Dead: the Musical from Stage Door, Inc. Is Laugh-Out-Loud Funny

The setup:

Sam Raimi's 1983 cult film The Evil Dead and its two sequels were reincarnated as a stage musical off-Broadway in 2006, and Stage Door, Inc. presents it in all its bloody gore and rich, take-no-prisoners humor.

The execution:

The viewing experience is as much an event as a performance. Audience members are greeted by highly realistic Zombies as they enter the corridor to the theater, including an apparent plant recognized as another "undead" only when it springs to startling life. The audience is well-warned that there is a down-front "splatter zone" as six gallons of fake blood is hurtled at the audience in intermittent but highly appropriate moments. (There is a safer zone for the less adventurous, and inexpensive ponchos are available.)

The story line is classic: Two young couples and the sister of one adventurer arrive at a cabin in the woods for a night of revelry, and inadvertently unlock the portal that keeps the undead at bay. If a favorite character is brutally slaughtered (watch out -- here comes the blood!) no need to worry -- it doesn't mean we've seen the last of him.

The pace is fast and furious, the set is remarkable in its detail and itself comes to life at one point, and the acting does its job of keeping the momentum going on an increasingly bloody trajectory.

A stand-out is Colton Wright as the lead, Ash, who moves from self-centered hedonist to savior of the human race in a triumphant performance, in which he is onstage almost the entire time and has to deal with the loss of a hand (don't worry about that hand, it too has a life of its own).

In a smaller but key role, entering late is Stephanie Kirkpatrick as Annie, whose father owned the cabin and dabbled in the black arts. Clad in a handsome safari outfit and impeccably groomed, she looks as though she wandered in from a silent film, but the incongruity is wonderful.

This wholehearted comedy is of course a deadpan spoof, as the unremitting gore piles excess on excess. I can't recall when I laughed so long -- or so continuously. The limited choreography is well-done, and the songs are entertaining, if not memorable. This carnival is directed by Marc Anthony Glover, and all concerned merit our gratitude. I'm going back to see it again, on Halloween -- but will be sitting further back this time.

The verdict:

Even the deliberate excesses of gore are hilarious. This is a night of comic inventiveness brought to vivid, interactive life -- don't miss it.

The show runs through October 29 at Stage Door, Inc. Center for the Performing Arts of Pasadena, 284 Pasadena Town Square Mall. For information or tickets, call 832-582-7606.

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