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Theater

Groovy!

A musical version of Sam Raimi's sidesplitting horror flick bathes Ferndale in blood

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Published 10/28/2009

Be advised, things get messy in Evil Dead: The Musical, a wild night of theatrical chills and subversive musical thrills where the laughs are as plentiful as the gore. If the front three rows of patrons decked in plastic ponchos weren't a strong enough clue, several signs taped up in the Ringwald Theatre's lobby offer a cheerfully ominous warning: There will be blood.

Damn it if they don't deliver, offering spurts, bursts and fountains of scarlet goop, along with some zippy zombie choreography and toe-tapping tunes. With tongues planted firmly in rotting cheeks, the show (which debuted in Toronto a few years back) takes local hero Sam Raimi's epically sick-and-twisted horror comedies and gives them the all-sing-and-dance polish they've somehow lacked. The plotline mashes up the classic, zero-budget 1981 original and elements of sequels Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn and Army of Darkness into one big monster-fighting, chainsaw-slinging sing-along.

This is the latest bit of inspired silliness from Ferndale's Who Wants Cake? troupe, which specializes in campy pop culture spectacles such as Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, and last year's now semi-legendary drag version of The Facts of Life.

Mitchell Koory stars as Ash, the role made immortal by Bruce Campbell, the humble S-mart housewares employee-turned-ultimate monster-slaying badass.

Alongside his four sexed-up friends, Ash sets off for a fun coed weekend of relaxation and hanky panky, only to find the "Necronomicon Ex-Mortis," an ancient Sumerian book of the dead, which, when read aloud, unleashes a plague of flesh-hungry demons.

All they have to defend themselves are a shotgun, a chainsaw and, of course, the power of song. The score is surprisingly catchy, loaded with hummable tunes with ridiculous titles such as "Ode to an Accidental Stabbing."

Koory looks a bit like John Stamos' younger, goofier cousin, and he doesn't quite possess Campbell's macho swagger, but who does? Yet Koory does really well with the slapstick, including one exhausting scene in which he battles his own hand. His pipes are also decent and his charisma will keep you cheering as he mows downs one demonic freakazoid after another.

Koory gets ample backup from Jessalyn Brooks, who does double-duty as a bimbo victim and a snooty researcher, and she flashes a bit of the bubbly sexiness that served her well in Debbie Does Dallas.

The real standout, however, is Christa Coulter as nerdy Cheryl, who relishes becoming undead, cackling with all her might, popping up out of the cellar, spouting heckles and silly puns. And while it's especially hard to squeeze laughs from a girl getting raped by demonically animated trees, here that scene gets the night's biggest laughs.

Sadly the room's low sightlines and set design conspire to obscure some of the action, which will leave the less brave guests in the back craning their necks to catch much of the mayhem. Evil Dead loses a bit of steam in the second act, but by then you'll be fatigued from laughing and dodging the streams of stage blood.

Running now through Monday, Nov. 16, at the Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-545-5545. See whowantscaketheatre.com for more information.

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