Halloween has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. Ghosts, witches, vampires, and, with ever more frequency, zombies, inhabit the world of what scares us and entertains us. The sheer number of zombie movies, TV shows, books and video games seems overwhelming to me. I just don’t get the fascination. But it’s there and has even crossed over to the stage. Stray Dog Theatre remounts Evil Dead, a zombie musical, created in Canada and most lovingly imported to the USA. Yes, that’s right, a zombie musical. Take one part zombie film, one part Scary Movie and one part Justin Been magic and you have Evil Dead, the Musical. If you haven’t been down to Tower Grove Abbey to see one of director Been’s musicals, then RUN and get your tickets. When I was there opening night, the first weekend was already sold out. I imagine the Halloween weekend is going fast too. Oh, and you can upgrade your tickets to the “splatter zone” which is exactly like what it sounds. Two rows of lucky folk get up close and personal with the cast and can even take home unique souvenir t-shirts spattered with “zombie goodies” like entrails and brains.
So here’s the plot, five college friends spend the weekend in an old cabin in which they have no right to be. They read aloud from the Book of the Dead (which just happens to be lying about,) unleashing a powerful, evil force that, one by one, makes them zombies. OK, now add some high production values, rocking songs and silly lines by writers George Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Melissa Morris and Christopher Bond, special effects, great vocal and music direction by Chris Petersen and his three man band (they sound MUCH bigger than three!) and that magic talent director Justin Been has to bring all his actors to the same level, and you have an evening of silly, silly, rockin’ good fun!
The ensemble has great voices and lots of talent. The girls are all pretty, the boys, even more so. Paul Cereghino really shines as Ash, the leader of the group, but kudos to the entire ensemble, Anna Skidis (who has just an amazing voice,) Eileen Engel, Angela Bubash and C.E. Fifer make up the rest of the “college kids,” Brittany Kohl does a lovely turn as the professor’s daughter, her “beau” played by Michael Wells has a wonderful moment ala “Mr Cellophane” from Chicago when he sings “Bit-Part Demon,” and Zachary Stefaniak plays loveable, reliable backwoods Jake, hillbilly hero, with great flamboyance and flair. Jeff Loeffler rounds out the ensemble playing the professor.