Evil Dead: The Musical: Director Chance Newman Talks Blood and Ballads

Posted March 25, 2013 in

Before he helmed such blockbusters as the Spider-Man franchise and the recently released Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi set out to make the “ultimate experience in grueling terror.” Along with a skeleton crew of friends and family, Raimi took a trip to a dilapidated cabin in the middle of a godforsaken wilderness to create a film that pushed the boundaries of what a horror movie could do. The result was The Evil Dead, a genre-bending splatterfest that told the unfortunate tale of a group of college buddies who, while on a weekend excursion in the woods, inadvertently conjure up a group of pissed off Candarian demons with a serious jones for human souls. Not only did the film launch the careers of Raimi and B-movie icon Bruce Campbell, it became a horror milestone that continues to influence the genre today.

In 2006, a demented group of Canadians—that’s Canadians, not Candarians—hatched the bold idea to transform the Evil Dead franchise into a stage musical. Like its source material, Evil Dead: The Musical became a cult sensation. Since its creation, the play has been staged all over Canada and the United States, with a few shows popping up in Seoul, Tokyo and Madrid.

For those of us in Salt Lake, the wait to participate in this phenomenon is over. This spring, Last Chance Productions will be bringing Evil Dead: The Musical to the Grand Theatre. Director/producer Chance Newman was groovy enough to sit down with SLUG to discuss the unique challenges that come with crafting a musical that features seven different kinds of blood.

SLUG: Tell us a little bit about your theater experience.
Newman: I have a pretty extensive background with musicals—more traditional, of course. I’ve done Guys and Dolls, Bye Bye Birdie, Anything Goes and Into the Woods. I’m also a huge horror movie fan, and we produce a haunted house every year. Between my love of horror films and musicals, Evil Dead: The Musical seemed like a perfect fit.

SLUG: I imagine there are quite a few differences between staging Bye Bye Birdie and Evil Dead.
Newman: (laughs) A few, yeah. For example, we use seven different types of blood in the show. All of the singing and dancing happens with these huge pools of blood on the stage. When you’re working with so much blood, it creates a very physically demanding show for the actors. While they’re performing, they also need to make sure their microphones don’t get splattered with blood and stop working mid-show. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.

SLUG: What made you decide to bring the show to Utah?
Newman: I used to live in Salt Lake. I’ve always loved the area, and I thought it would be fun to bring the show here. The Grand is a great place. They’ve been great to let us come in and splatter blood all over their nice theater.

SLUG: Speaking of splattering blood, can you tell us a little bit more about the show’s famous “splatterzone?”
Newman: The musical can definitely stand on its own, but the splatterzone is what the play is known for. A lot of the blood that we use will end up on the audience in the splatterzone. True fans wear white, but we welcome ponchos, too. I suggest sitting as close to the front as possible, or close to the aisles—monsters will come out and die on audience members. It’s very up close and personal. We bring the blood out to the audience.

SLUG: How do you approach creating such gory special effects for a stage performance?
Newman: We use a lot of stage magic—sleight of hand, tricks like that. Sam Raimi was actually a stage magician at one time, and a lot of the film tricks that he used in Evil Dead came from that background. I think it’s interesting that those tricks have carried over into the musical, even though he didn’t create it. The gore is such a big part of the films, and our goal is to try and get as much of the film as possible into the production.

SLUG: Thematically, how to the songs fit into the story?
Newman: The songs really move the story forward and make the production very entertaining. Musically, we’re working with a lot of different genres. The song “Look Who’s Evil Now” has a very James Brown feel to it, where “Do the Necronomicon,” a song performed by a demon ensemble, is a mix between Rocky Horror’s “Time Warp” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” During one of the more melodramatic moments, when Ash has to kill his girlfriend, he sings the operatic “I’m Not a Killer” as he gets splattered in blood. Even if you haven’t seen the films or don’t love musicals, this production has something for everyone.

Evil Dead: The Musical will be showing at The Grand Theatre on March 29-30. You can get tickets at evildeadslc.com, but get them quickly. The splatterzone is filling up pretty fast.