Theatre Review: “Evil Dead” at Newnan Theatre Company

It was only a matter of time, I think. After all, here in Newnan we are living in Zombieland. No surprise, then, that our theatre company has mounted the camp zombie musical Evil Dead.

Based on the movie trilogy (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness) the stage version was born in the back of a bar, in Toronto, 2003.  The ‘only show to have a splatter zone’ was an instant hit, moving to Off Broadway, before 3 American tours and over 200 productions around the globe and counting. Folks, there are even two productions currently showing in the ATL; Newnan and Marietta.

Why is the show a bonafide hit, even if it never made Broadway?  Well, gosh, it’s fun. The characters are memorable. It takes classic horror movie elements – stupid college students, a lonely cabin in the woods, zombie demons and nature run amok – and mixes them joyfully with some seriously tuneful melodies with lyrics that are witty ditties in their own right.

And then there’s blood. A lot of blood. (You’ve just been warned.)

Tony Daniels, Newnan’s Artistic Director, takes the helm. He’s done a darn good job on a show that has a lot of moving parts, keeping the action moving and zombies chomping. Mucho credit to the musical team, too: Joel Gould on guitar and Brad Thompson on percussion keep the beat beating and Tammy Kimbell is both keyboardist and Musical Director; she’s done an outstanding job.

In the cast, the women shine. Megs Free is a wonderful, nerdy Cheryl who serves as a sort of Zombie narrator? Wise fool? Whatever. She has a lot of fun with both her before/after selves. Emily Kimbell has dual roles and knocks both of them out of the park, with hands down the finest vocal chops in the cast. Her bloody moment could easily have stopped the show – in the good way – but she soldiered on like a real trooper (not easy to look good when your hair is dripping blood). And Hannah Rubinstein as Linda is just fine; it’s a sweet part but she puts teeth into it.

The men are good but…yeah, the women wipe the floor with them. Literally. But…Lance Smith takes the stage as good old Jake. Joseph Moore as a sex obsessed Scott has some great lines – I could wish for a little more vocal power behind his delivery. Loved watching Tre Lockhart’s Ed go from wimpy boyfriend to fired up zombie; he’s someone I’ll be watching for in the future.

Which brings us, alas, to Ash. His character, if you’re a fan of the movies, is central to the story and that is this production’s only real flaw. Joseph Moore has the looks and the demeanor – he’s the perfect ‘type’ – but he just doesn’t have the vocal power to deliver the songs, or the stage presence to hold up his character’s centrality. It’s a shame. He works hard and comes close, but, no cigar. I mean, chainsaw.

Still, this production is a hoot and I recommend it. How often do you go to the theatre with a blood poncho?