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The Evil Dead - Limelight Theatre

Reviewed by Paul Treasure


The Comedy/Horror musical is a very small genre that has been blessed by the two almighty powerhouses of The Rocky Horror Show and Little Shop of Horrors. The closest contender to join this pantheon is probably Evil Dead: The Musical, which has been playing around the world for over 20 years and is only just now finally making its Australian debut at Limelight Theatre.

From a technical standpoint, this is a fiendishly difficult musical to pull off well, and Limelight has managed this feat with aplomb. The main set of the abandoned cabin in the woods looks very effective and hides its secrets very well. In its dormant state, it is impossible to tell what and where things will start to become animated. The lighting was very well designed, setting the mood perfectly. The many sound effects were well chosen and very well timed. If there was to be a quibble, it would be that some of the transitions from the main set to the front of curtain scenes took a little longer than would have been preferred, and produced a slight drop in the momentum of the show. 

The band, under the musical direction of Jasper Cruden, were impeccable. The small ensemble of four powered the show, with guitarist Chris Johnston impressing with his ability. Choreography, by Breanne Lucas, was very effective, especially in the large group numbers like “Do the Necronomicon”. Fight choreography, by Kyren Cleave, was also very

impressive, especially with the sheer amount of fight choreography required for this show.

Based, as the show is, on the first two films of the horror film franchise, the lead role of Ash (originally played by Bruce Campbell) is an iconic role. Luke Miller has done an excellent job in the role. Not merely copying Campbell’s interpretation, as could be tempting, but making it his own. This is a big role, and one that needs to be played big, which Luke does in spades, never crossing the line and doing too much. His comic timing and physicality are impressive, especially in the scenes where he is fighting himself, literally.

Escher Roe, as Cheryl, impresses with her boundless energy. Her repeated appearances from the basement were always a surprise, and her quick handling of the trap door, either opening or closing, was brilliant. Of all the roles in the show, this is the role that has the most danger of going too over the top. Escher plays the role big, no, she plays the role HUGE, but always manages to keep it within the bounds of credibility (if such a word exists for this show). I especially appreciated how she played Cheryl very bookish and introverted, until her… change, at which point she seemed to be playing Cheryl as some sort of demonic cheerleader, as opposed to just some generic evil. This was a brilliant touch and worked very well for her character.

Naomi Capon shone in the dual roles of Shelly and Annie, especially in the Act 2 number “All the Men in My Life…”. Her seriousness as Annie counterplay beautifully against her bimboesque Shelly, to the point where, without a programme, I may not have picked out it was the same person playing both. Max Leunig was endearing as the feckless Ed, especially in his song “I’m just a bot part demon”, however, he overshadowed himself with a quite frankly brilliant and hilarious portrayal as the voice of the Moose.

On the whole, the cast looked like they were having an absolute ball with this show, their energy and commitment to their roles was contagious. This is a show that needs to be played big, and they threw their hearts into it with gusto. On a couple of occasions some of the portrayals crossed the line and went too far over the top, but by and large, they kept them believable within the context of the show.

As a first-time director, Kieran Ridgway has shown himself to be a natural. The show is well-balanced and very well-paced. The sheer amount of technical considerations in doing this show would make it a challenge to an experienced director, let alone someone tackling it for the first time. He is to be congratulated on such a stunning debut, and I look forward to

seeing what he comes up with next. 

And now, to the elephant in the room. The original production, and many subsequent productions, feature what has been dubbed “The Splatter Zone”. The original films are incredibly gory and, in order to share that gore with the audiences, there are a number of points in the show where the first rows of seats were sprayed with fake blood. While easily dismissed as just a fun and interesting gimmick, the show has been written around this gimmick, and there are points, especially in the second act, where the lack of the splatter zone is keenly felt. There are very few venues in Perth that would be happy to accommodate the amount of gore that has been used in previous productions of this show, and it is perfectly reasonable to decide to not trash a venue for just one season. But the show does feel less than it could be without it. Kieran and his team have managed an absolutely splendid production without it, but it would have been great to have seen what they could have achieved with it.

Only a couple of years ago I don’t think many groups in Perth would even think of touching this show with a barge pole, so it is great to see a well-established theatre like Limelight grabbing the show with both hands and embracing it. Overall this is an excellent production, one that many in Australia have been waiting years to see, and it is fantastic that for once

Perth gets something like this before the rest of the country. If you are a fan of the movies, this is a must-see. If you are a fan of quirky off-broadway musicals, you should have already booked your tickets. We’ve waited twenty years for this particular show to come around for the first time, who knows how long it will be until the next.

The Cast of The Evil Dead at Limelight Theatre.

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company



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