Before I can tell you about the show, lets start at the beginning. As a Kid I had a bit of a fascination with Horror movies. I grew up watching the usual cult classics like Nightmare on Elm St., Friday the 13th, Halloween, all of the Romero Zombie movies, and the Hellraiser flicks too. I watched and knew all the schlock B horror movies as well as the obscure ones. I felt my skin crawl when I watched “Night of the creeps” and I sunk back in the couch with a blanket pulled up to my nose, ready to hide under it when I watched “Maniac”. There was something about these movies that just pulled me in every time. I went to the video rental shop down the street almost every day and picked out the movie with the most horrible and terrifying cover I could find so I could take it home and watch. It was exciting and just plain fun. I loved the thrill of being scared and to this day, I still do.
Of the movies I watched both as a child and as an adult, one of my all time favorites is the Evil Dead franchise. I’ll never forget the first time I watched Evil Dead. It was 1988, I was 14 years old and I watched it many times before I found out there was a sequel! Now, you have to remember, these were the days before everyone had the internet. There was no social networking like there is today, so learning about these things was kind of an adventure. You heard about it from a friend, saw it in Fangoria magazine, or as I sometimes did, you looked for awesome video covers and rented the movie on a whim. Now that I had both movies to watch, I found that I loved how it became more Tongue in cheek with the second film, but still managed to maintain it’s creepiness. Evil Dead was one of those great finds that opened up my mind to a new kind of horror. It was campy and fun, but it had gore as well! It was an instant hit with me!
In 1992, Army of Darkness came out. Though a lot less Horror and a lot more camp, it too went on my list of favorites. With that, The Evil Dead trilogy was complete. Fans of the movies have since enjoyed a series of comic books, and video games as well. All great content to keep the die hard fans happy and die hard I was…still am too. I once even drove from Columbus Ohio to Maryland just to meet Bruce Campbell. (Who was an AWESOME guy! Pardon me while I mark that off my “bucket list”!)
My love for the Movies spawned a love for anything that had Bruce Campbell or Sam Raimi’s name attached to it and I’m not the only one. There is an army of Evil Dead fans that love it all as much as I do.
THEN, In 2003 something new hit the scene. Fans everywhere cast their attention upon Evil Dead The Musical. Those fans of the series in Toronto, Ontario were the first to see it and it became an instant success. Later in 2004, the show hit the “Just for Laughs Festival” in Montreal. In 2006 it moved to an off Broadway run that was very well received. Since then it has literally played all over the world. Throughout this time, I wanted to see it myself, but the opportunity never came. As a business owner working long hours, the opportunity to travel to a show never presented itself. Eventually, it found it’s way to my area. The first time I saw it playing close to home was when CATCO ran it at the Riffe center in downtown Columbus. Sadly, I did not get to see it and since then I hadn’t heard of another production. That is, Until a friend sent me a link to a website for Dark Woods. I booked my tickets that day. After what seemed like an eternal wait, July 28th came and I was on my way to see the show, ready for a night of gore and laughs.
THIS IS WHERE THE REVIEW BEGINS! (SPOILER ALERT!)
Dark woods is about 45 minutes outside of downtown Columbus. It’s right off a long country road and I had to look closely for the sign to the theater. Once I saw it, it was too late. I should have been driving a little bit slower. After I turned around, I arrived at the entrance once again. This time I turned in at the sign.
As in the Evil Dead movie itself, the drive to the theater is a country road leading to a dirt road that leads into the woods. It’s absolutely perfect for setting the mood. I parked in a field and then took a short walk down the path to a little concession booth at the theater entrance. Once there, I checked in. This production sells out every showing, so when you arrive, you have to check in at Will Call. They place a number by your name and after the sun sets, they call your name in the order you arrived and send you down the path that leads to the stage and seating. This is good because there is no seating assignment. If you come early, you get the best seats. Luckily, I was very early. Eagerly and with my excitement level turned up to eleven, I watched the sun set. The field in front of the woods made for an almost cinematic view as the last bits of amber dropped behind the trees on the horizon. In the meantime, I socialized with other theater goers. I’m not a social guy by nature, But this was a fun group of people. I talked movies with one group of Evil dead the musical followers who had been to the show several times already. I had a conversation about MST3K with the group of people on my other side and in general, I found myself a little more friendly and chatty than usual.
After a while, my name was called and I headed down the dark trail. The atmosphere was ominous. A dark path through the woods lit only by the small post lights heading to an opening where I got my first glimpse of the set. What was the first thing I did? Ran right up to the stage for a picture by the car! I was sad that the car didn’t resemble Sam Rami’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, but I still jumped right by it and Smiled for the camera in my usual ham fashion.
Now, something my YouTube subscribers and NerdKO readers may not know about me is that there was a time in my life where I was heavily involved in theater and vocal music. I regard it highly as part of my nerd heritage. I love to perform and I love a good show. I was a member of the International Thespian Society when I was younger and always went to OMEA (Ohio music education association) solo competition. It was a driving force for me at one time. It changed my life and made me who I am today. So, I take it all pretty seriously. But, this is a new experience all together. I’ve never seen a show like it and probably never will again. Well, at least not until I go see it a second time. When I ordered my tickets I saw the disclaimer “Warning, Many seats are in the splatter zone” and I’d heard that with the other productions (that had “safe” seating) you were likely to go home with some red on you. So I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical night to the Ohio or Palace theater to see a Broadway road show kind of event. It’s a really nice break from the normal getting dressed up for a night at the theater type thing. For this show, you wear old clothes and sneakers. You walk in with full expectations of being splashed with some kind of gore and frankly…that’s just awesome! So if you’re like me and you enjoy a night out at the theater, be sure to leave your traditional expectations at home. This is a whole new animal.
The atmosphere as I said before is perfect, but there’s more to this. Dark Woods is a very intimate setting. The seating is limited and there is a feeling when you go in that you’re not surrounded by stuffy or snotty people. In fact, this feels more like a group of friends inviting you over for a production. Maybe it’s because we all have a common tie. We all MUST be fans of the movie if we’re here to see this and you have to be a certain kind of person to not only like the Evil Dead movies, but to actually drive out to the country to see a musical version of it and get splattered in blood while doing so. I often see the shows put on by the Actor’s theater of Columbus at Schiller park and I’ve seen many CATCO productions as well. They’re very well done and it’s always worth going and supporting local theater, but this felt more friendly somehow.
When the show started, I was half in critical mode and half in fun mode. I noticed right away that I liked the set. It starts off with a cammo net curtain making up the background as the college coeds drive to the cabin and sing their opening number “Cabin in the woods”. Then the Trees (portrayed by some guys in ghillie suits) pull it back to reveal the stage itself. The cozy little cabin where ash and his friends spend the worst night of their lives…well, for most of them, the last night.
As we got into the production, I noticed that some of the vocals were a bit pitchy. I looked at the stage for sound monitors and couldn’t see any. I wondered if they are working without them. I’m not sure if that was the issue or not, But either way, it was something that could use some attention. With that there were also some small Mic issues that were evident. But, this is live theater and when these problems arise, you just go on with the show. I found that these two, were the only negative things I had to say about the entire production.
The performers all did a great job, Ash was Ash as you would expect him to be. He gets all the good lines
“Good, Bad, I’m the guy with the gun!”
and he is the focal point of all the movies, but the spotlight is shared in this production. I found to my own surprise that I was immediately drawn to the rest of the characters as well. Scott was never a stand out character to me, but he was absolutely hilarious in this show. Shelly, Scott’s date for the weekend, the sexy air headed bimbo he picked up only a few days prior, was delightful to watch as she just didn’t get what was going on around her.
Linda and Cheryl don’t last long, but they get a lot of stage time as deadites one by one begin to fill the cabin, singing the catchy line “look who’s evil now!”
I was sad to see that the Sexy Bobby Joe from the second movie was not present in this iteration of Evil Dead. I was kind of looking forward to her, But Jake was still there and even made a quip in reference to her absence.
Ed and Annie were welcome characters, (The same actress double cast for both the roles of Shelly and Annie) showing up at the end of the first act just in time to see Ash taking a chainsaw to his lovely girlfriends head. As the second act began, we started right were we left off (minus the corpses littering the cabin floor) with ash holding the chainsaw to Linda’s head, Blood shooting from the table and all over the audience, and Annie, Ed, and Jake watching in horror. Maybe I’m bias. It’s quite possible that that my opinion is colored by my love for Evil Dead in general, but It’s the best opening to a second act I’ve ever experienced! To add to the hilarity of it all, I was right in the firing line of a stream of blood that got me pretty good. It was a riot! What show starts the second act with a gallon of blood spraying out into the audience?
As it progresses, you find that this show is comprised of elements from the first two Evil Dead flicks and even some lines from Army of Darkness. I don’t want to offer up any more spoilers than I already have but if you’re a fan of the films, the nostalgia factor of this show will definitely be a big plus for you.
Another great thing was the friendly cast who stayed on stage after curtain call to talk and take pictures with the audience. That was a fun bonus. I got to talk with some of the cast and congratulate them on a job well done. It was a blast.
Oh, and did I mention that soda, chips, and other snacks, were only $.50 each at the concession stand? It may seem like nothing to some of you, but the idea that they weren’t out to rape my wallet at intermission was really nice.
In the end, I can only say:
“Go see this show if it comes to a town near you!”
and if you live in Ohio, make it this one! It’s not 100% perfect, but it is great and there is no question that in seeing this production, you will enjoy a theater experience unlike any you have had before. Even if you’re not a fan of the movies, you’ll get a kick out of it.
When you get your tickets, be sure to order them well in advance. I had plans of seeing this one a second time with a bunch of friends before it stops running. I was sad to find as I signed on last night to order them, that the last of the shows were sold out. I guess I’ll have to wait till Next year.
Our plan for next time? We’re going to sit down and watch the original three movies in succession before we go watch the show. Sure, we’ve already seen them over and over, But it’s something we MUST do. It’ will be the ultimate movie/stage production marathon!
Sure, Maybe it’ll be a year before we get to do it, but we’re planning our trip to Dark Woods next summer
In all honesty, you should to. This show is a total KO.