(all photos are from Chris Bishop Photography)
(also warning: sweary words and rude gestures ahead, because, well…it makes sense if you see the show)
I had no idea what Evil Dead: The Musical was. Didn’t even know it was a thing. I hadn’t even seen any of the movies. I was doing a production of Kiss Me Kate when one of the actors asked me if I was familiar with it. I said no, and he kind of gave me a look and said “look up the part of Cheryl.”
Lo and behold, I fell in love. It turns out that the theatre was doing a production of Evil Dead in the fall, and even though it was only February I WAS READY TO GO.
Evil Dead is the story of “five college students on their way to an old abandoned cabin in the woods.” Not even kidding, that’s the first song.
(we’re in a car. you can tell because of the steering wheel.)
Now, these five college students are breaking into this cabin and they accidentally unleash a terrible evil, and people wind up as Deadites…or just dead. It’s a campy, tongue-in-cheek, raunchy musical with a lot of blood. A lot of blood.
I wanted to be in this show.
Cheryl is the younger sister of Ash, the protagonist. She’s kind of a stick in the mud, a little whiny, and she tries to convince the others to leave the cabin. Naturally they don’t listen to her, and naturally she’s the first one to get turned into a demon. So Cheryl spends the first fifteen minutes of the show cute and sweet, and then turns into a foul-mouthed demon locked in the cellar, and pops up every so often to deliver a really bad pun.
I REALLY wanted to be in this show.
I think I prepared more for this audition than any other audition- which is saying something. I sang “Dead Girl Walking” from Heathers. Ordinarily, singing a song like that is probably frowned upon, but when you’re auditioning for a character who sings lines like “I heard you fuckers laughing at me and calling me a prude/let’s see if you’re still laughing when I rip out your fallopian tubes,” you probably have a little more leeway. We did the dance call to “Do the Necronomicon” (which is a great number) and read a couple of scenes, and then we were sent on our way. And I was cast as Cheryl!
The trickiest thing was balancing rehearsals with Heathers. Luckily, the theaters were about ten minutes apart, and the directors were flexible, and my role in Heathers was considerably smaller. Heathers rehearsal was at 6pm Tuesday-Saturday and Evil Dead was at 7pm, Monday-Thursday, so on overlapping days (read: almost all of them) I would stay for the first half of Heathers and then go to Evil Dead till 10 or so. Did I mention I was also rehearsing for a cabaret at the beginning of the process too? And I was starting a new job training because Great Movie Ride was closing? Yeah. I didn’t sleep for months. Luckily Heathers was in September and Evil Dead was in October, so I had a two week span to focus on Evil Dead when Heathers closed.
(Cheryl becomes a demon because she gets raped by evil trees. Yeah. That was an interesting scene to block.)
The rehearsal process was smooth yet daunting. Smooth, because our director, Tad, had played Scotty in the Las Vegas production of the show for two and half years and he knows the show super well. Daunting, because I have never played a role so physically demanding. The show starts off fairly standard, just a nice little opening number and opening scene in the cabin. The next time I came onstage, I got raped by trees (which was done with the guys playing Ed, Jake, and Fake Shemp dressed as blacklight trees picking me up and tossing me around). Then I ran offstage and had about ten seconds to take off my hairbow, my glasses, my coat, and my long skirt so I could run back onstage covered in blood. (We did some of the blood before the show while I was putting my makeup on, and then we touched it up every time I ran backstage. Which wasn’t often.)
Then Alex (who played Ash) and I had to run around to the top of the house to come down the side stairs for the bit with a bridge and I sang an overly dramatic song called “It Won’t Let Us Leave.” Honestly the inspiration for my facial expressions for that number all came from this Youtube video with multiple dramatic impressions of “On My Own” from Les Miserables.
After that I had an extremely short scene to run around to the back, get my blanket and my mask, get some more blood, and run onstage for the sequence of events that nearly killed me. I sang the first half of my big number “Look Who’s Evil Now” (where I dramatically revealed myself to be a demon, complete with a super awesome mask)…
…collapsed on the floor, then immediately came up to sing another verse and attack everybody else…
…then got picked up and tossed in the cellar (which was TERRIFYING and I genuinely fell more than once. Plus the time Alex slipped on the stairs and almost dropped. Also I was screaming and shouting while they carried me around.)…
…and then popped right back up for some dialogue and then backing up Shelly on her verse…
…and then I had a two minute song to catch my breath before my next song, which involved singing along with a demonic puppet moose. Did I mention that I was screaming and/or belting for most of this? No wonder I was so tired after every performance! The first time we ran this sequence on the set I literally had to get my inhaler. It was insane. But still, so much fun.
I spent most of the show after that hiding out in the cellar and popping up to say something inappropriate or a pun (sometimes inappropriate puns). It was great, and my thighs got an insane workout from all the squats I was doing in the cellar. You can see from the photos of the set how small the cellar was; I had enough space to sit cross legged without hitting my head, but not much else space. We also tried putting metal chains over the top of the cellar door, but that ended quickly- they were too heavy, they were too loud, and they kept getting caught in the cellar door.
My favorite bit, gross as it sounds, was spitting on people. It took some doing to get it to look good onstage (who know there were skills involved?? I’m putting it on my resume). Our blood techs made me a special little bottle of spitting blood that was kept in the fridge between performances, and I would set the bottle with my props in the cellar at the top of the show. It was made mostly from strawberry milk liquid flavoring and corn syrup, and at the right cue I would take a swig, crouch under the cellar door, and pop out.
I spat on Ash and bit Ed; for Ed I would mostly let the blood dribble out of my mouth (ONE NIGHT I MISJUDGED AND A GLOB WENT INTO MY BRA. WHAT A MISTAKE.) but for Ash I would take a literal spittake. One night I spit too hard and it shot right into his mouth and I felt so bad, but he was like “no, that was great!! Do it again!!”
I spent most of the show in the cellar, but I did come out at the end as part of the Deadite backup for “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed By Kandarian Demons” (which I adore and is now a potential audition song in my book). And then I died (so I popped squib #1)
I then came back to life and sang “Do the Necronomicon,” “It’s Time,” and “We Will Never Die” with the rest of the Deadites- all really fun songs.
(also JUST LOOK AT THAT CHAINSAW. Alex rehearsed with a sock over his hand until we got the chainsaw; we called it Lil Nubbin)
We also did a really great, extremely bloody fight scene. I got the last death and the last line, which is from the original film series- I got to stumble back to my feet, flip Ash off and scream “hey Ash- how ’bout I make like a tree, and fuck you!” And then he shot me over his shoulder and I died dramatically. (squib #2)
(However- every single night I popped the squib right into my hair. Once I popped it so hard against my collarbone that I bruised my boob. And multiple times I popped the squib into my mouth, and the blood was like 80% soap and it was SO GROSS. And there was a night that I was lying dead on the floor and Alex slammed the butt of the shotgun on my forehead. And there was a night he stepped on my hand. And one time he slammed the cellar door on my head and knocked me out for a few seconds in the middle of a performance. We really are friends, I swear.)
After this scene, though, all the Deadites had to run backstage, rip off our masks, and put on goofy hats to play random S-Mart patrons, while Ash tied a blue S-Mart apron on. Yes, we were all still covered in blood. It’s fine, don’t question it. Pretty much everybody used multiple hats, but I used the unicorn one every time just because I really liked it. And then we sang the last number, “Blew That Bitch Away,” and that was that!
I’ve worked with the Moonlight theater several times already (I’ve done Seussical, Kiss Me Kate, and The Mousetrap there) and usually their shows run for four weeks- Friday night, Saturday night, and a Sunday matinee. Evil Dead was a little different. We ran for three weeks with Friday night, Saturday night, Saturday at midnight, and Sunday night. That’s right- we did a performance at 7pm on Saturday, immediately dispersed to get all the blood off ourselves and our costumes, and came back for another performance at 11pm. It was super intense. Luckily a couple of people lived nearby, so we would split up to shower, and then come back to do another show.
Honestly, even though this show was so crazy and intense and chaotic, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Cheryl is up there with one of the top roles I’ve ever played, and I definitely want to play her again. And we had such insane audience feedback- we had people who came back five times and people who drove from towns and states away, even a group that came from fourteen hours away! We took photos with the audience afterwards too, and it was just so much fun. Out of twelve performances, we sold out eight, and the rest were 85% full or more.
Here’s hoping I get another chance to go to the cabin in the woods again!
(Do I look like a crazy person in this curtain call photo? Absolutely. Do I look like I’ve had the time of my life? Absolutely!)
(Also you can see squib #3- we popped them into the audience for curtain call. #blessed)