Dead musical kills audiences

Queen’s grads and creators of Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical, George Reinblatt and Christopher Bond, among friends.
Queen’s grads and creators of Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical, George Reinblatt and Christopher Bond, among friends.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of Richard Furhoff Photography, Toronto
You should hear him sing.
You should hear him sing.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of Richard Furhoff Photography, Toronto

Severed limbs, rusty chainsaws, gratuitous blood and choreographed dance numbers? That’s right, Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical has arrived, and musical theatre will never be the same.

The brilliantly bizarre, musical comedy has just completed its run at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, the largest international comedy festival in the world.

The Journal had the chance to speak with Christopher Bond, a Queen’s graduate, and the director and co-creator of Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical, on a cell-phone while he canvassed the streets of Montreal last week—as his show was turning heads all over the city.

“To be quite frank,” Bond said, “it’s the hit of the festival.” He’s right. Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical has received more publicity than any other English show in the comedy festival’s history.

“We’ve been getting awesome reviews, top to bottom,” he said. “The interesting thing is that it’s not just the English press, the French press is just eating us up. There’s a lot of love and a lot of attention down here. We’re so happy.” Bond has every reason to be happy. His play—which started as little more than a reason to put on a show at a bar in Toronto, have a lot of fun and maybe make a few bucks—is now the talk of the town at the ultimate showcase of performance comedy in the world.

Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical originally premiered at the Tranzac club in Toronto only a year ago. The unconventional space, which is a typical bar on most nights, offered Bond and company the perfect place to begin their ascent. Unlike most musical theatre venues, the Tranzac served alcohol throughout the show.

“It’s very much got a Queen’s Players flavour to it,” he said. “We always do the show in some place that has a bar, and we encourage the audience to drink and have fun. You’ve heard of dinner theatre, well this is kind of like drinker theatre.”

Evil Dead 1&2: The Musical is a hilariously absurd, musical adaptation of Sam Raimi’s original films, The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. As difficult as it may be, imagine a decapitated zombie, spewing ridiculous amounts of blood from multiple orifices, doing a chorus line.

But how did this all start? What could possess Bond and fellow Queen’s grad and joint creator George Reinblatt, to even think of turning the Evil Dead films into a musical?

“I was in a production of the Rocky Horror Show in Toronto,” Bond said. “And I was dumbfounded by how the show had this huge cult following. It was just insane. People who would normally never go to the theatre were going out in droves to see the show, and I just remember thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do the same thing—if we could write our own show, and create our own cult following.

“So then, I approached George about working with me on a ‘cult’ musical.”

Bond is the first one to admit his surprise at the show’s rapid success, “We had no idea that this was ever going to happen,” he said. “I thought it would be a good idea, we might make a few bucks, and have a few laughs. Then, we were writing and we thought, ‘Wow, this is really good.’ When we were in Toronto, people fell in love with it so fast. We couldn’t believe it. There’s an energy to this show, and a lot of people who come to see the show get swept up in that energy.”

The hilarious musical numbers in Evil Dead recall a similar treatment given to the genre in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.

“Yeah, South Park has a very similar style,” Bond said, “and I’m a huge Trey Parker and Matt Stone fan.”

Bond continued, “You’re singing about absolute ridiculousness, but you’re being completely straight-faced about it—that’s where the comedy is.”

When you consider the absurdity in which Bond and company were presenting Evil Dead, with the number of passionate fans of the original films, the threat of upsetting die-hard purists, was huge. Luckily for Bond, the “Dead-ites” have loved the show.

“The ‘Dead-ites’ have seen the show and have thanked us for making it,” Bond said. “We’re talking about a bunch of fans who haven’t seen anything new, in terms of creative property, in over a decade.

“We were worried about a lot of things. When you have an audience of fans who are as dedicated as [the Dead-ites], you have to get it exactly right from the movie,” he said.

“We were scared that the “Dead-ites” would kill us—like, literally—if we didn’t follow the same kind of guidelines that the movies entailed. So we kept a very strict eye throughout all the writing,” he said.

Bond also said he’s received lots of support from the original Evil Dead people. “Sam Raimi [creator of original Evil Dead movies] has seen tapes of the show, and he supports us whole-heartedly,” he said.

When asked if he is farcing on the horror genre, Bond took on a relatively serious tone for the first time in the interview: “By no means are we making fun of the film or the genre,” he said. “We’re just adding to the same kind of fun-loving humour that Sam Raimi pioneered with the original movies; that kind of slapstick, so-much-blood-that-it’s-ridiculous, where horror is absurd and funny, and we’re exaggerating that feeling. This is not ‘Scary Movie: The Musical’—this is Evil Dead.”

At the mention of Queen’s, Bond, a graduate of the Stage and Screen program, is emphatic with praise. “I think Queen’s has one of the best drama departments and film departments in all of Canada. They don’t have a lot of the toys or money that a lot of other schools, or even other faculties at Queen’s, have, but they really give you an opportunity to do your own thing, to be creative.” “It was in the drama department where I took a class with Tim Fort—I remember the fish bowl he used to bring his candy in—anyway, it was a musical theatre class, and there was an audition project where we had to create an idea for a musical, and me and my friends came up with, ‘Pulp Fiction: The Musical.’ Tim said it was a great idea, and that kind of started me on the whole, cult-movies-as-musicals thing.”

In fact, “Pulp Fiction: The Musical” was Bond and Reinblatt’s original idea before they stumbled upon Evil Dead, which they thought made more sense, and was much more plausible.

“And, you’re not going to find a better teacher in the drama department than Tim Fort. He’s a great guy,” Bond said.

Bond and Reinblatt are not the only Queen’s alumni involved with the show. The production is stacked with Queen’s grads: the entire creative team, including both writers, director, composers, and musical director, are from Queen’s, as well as half the performers, the choreographer, production manager, stage manager, assistant stage manager, the set designer, half the band, the vocal director, and even the ticket takers.

Players is also well represented. Performers, Tim Evans, Meredith Shaw, Matt Olmstead and Bond himself were all in Queen’s Players at some point during their stay here.

“We’ve used some of that Queen’s Players formula in our show, and it’s really working.”

What’s next for Evil Dead? “The sky’s the limit with this show,” Bond said. “We’ve had a lot of interest, but right now, this is the biggest international comedy festival in the world, so we’re just thrilled to be where we are today. But this show definitely has legs and hopefully we’ll see it up again and again. People from all over have been asking us to bring the show to them. Right now, though, we’re the talk of the town, and it’s really exciting.”

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