Evil Dead: The Musical is going to be messy. First of all, there will be blood, lots and lots and lots of blood.
"There is blood shooting out of sprayers, we’ve got props rigged up to explode with blood and actors rigged up to be shooting blood out of their body," says Kelsey McMillan, who is co-directing the production for Obsidian Theater along with Tom Stell.
They've arranged for two late night performances with blood splash zones and ponchos (October 6 and 20), though McMillan says they're trying to avoid that for earlier performances. Still, it's probably best to not wear white if sitting in the front row. "We don't want to do that to the audience every night."
For those not familiar with writer/director Sam Raimi's 1981 film The Evil Dead, five friends holed up in a cabin in the woods unwittingly conjure up flesh-possessing demons who kill them off one by one. Evil Dead II picks up with the sole survivor who continues battling the demons, this time with a set of strangers in the cabin.
McMillan says Evil Dead: The Musical is a mash-up of both flicks, mingling characters from the second film (Jake, Annie and Ed) with characters from the first film. It's also messy in a different way: there's not really any consistency.
"Anyone who has seen the Evil Dead movies or even part of the Evil Dead franchise knows that it’s a little bit all over the place which is part of the charm of the movie themselves," says McMillan. "Continuity is totally out the window."
She says people die and then we'll see them later in the play. "It gets called out. It's very tongue in cheek; super, super campy. The continuity in this show is that there is no continuity."
Rehearsals have been going well and it looks like we'll be introduced to a couple of rising actors who just might be this year's ones to watch.
"We’ve got two actors that we cast in the show who are a bit new to the Houston scene, just 20 years old: Caleb Wyrick and Madison Mapes. I have to say I have been truly just blown away by the amazing rehearsal process, the energy. Unstoppable it seems. They’re coming and they’re giving 120 percent every single time they’re stepping on the stage," says McMillan.
Portraying doomed friends in the production are Liz Tinder (Linda), Mapes (Cheryl), Kiara Steelhammer (Shelly), Wyrick (Scott) and James Duncan as the lucky/unlucky sole survivor (Ash). Joining them in the cabin are Evil Dead II's strangers: Brian Chambers (Ed), Charisse Shields (Annie), Tom Stell (Jake) and an ensemble cast: JT Fischer, Nolan LeGault and Jeffrey Stallings.
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Obsidian has had phenomenal success with musicals of late. During the 2018 Houston Theater Awards they won Best Musical for their co-production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood with Standing Room Only Productions; and Paul Hope won Best Director of a Musical and Krissy Richmond won Best Choreography for Obsidian's Cabaret. During the 2017 Awards season Obsidian/SRO won Best Musical for Passing Strange and actor Blake Jackson won Best Breakthrough as Hedwig Robinson in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Eduardo Guzman is taking the reins as music director for Evil Dead: The Musical. And we're praying that they find the governor switch for all that blood spatter before opening night: Chloe Westfall is on props, Caitlin Casellie is on special effects and Caroline Harrell is designing the costumes. Prayers go out to Sara Denton and Zoe Casseday (stage manager and assistant stage manager) because, as we said, there will be blood.
The party people won't want to miss a special Halloween after party on October 26; just $5 extra for spooky fun.
Performances of Evil Dead: The Musical are scheduled for September 28-October 27, 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and October 15, 11:30 p.m. October 6 and 20, Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak, 832-889-7837, obsidiantheater.org, $30 to $45.