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‘Evil Dead’ a very different theatrical experience

Patty Lee Silva (from left), Mikel Gosney, Laura Lee Cole, William Nill, Felicia Chernicki-Wulf, Jake Pecaut, Lia De Souza and Derek Nakagawa are part of the chorus line in “Evil Dead the Musical” opening at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei Oct. 18. Like all of the international productions over the years, ProArt’s “Evil Dead the Musical” will include a splash zone — higher priced seating where you are virtually guaranteed to be soaked in faux blood. BRETT WULFSON photo

A musical for people that don’t love musicals, and perhaps a musical that’s not for people that love Rodgers and Hammerstein, “Evil Dead the Musical” will be opening ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

Its rustic beginnings were on a tiny stage at a bar in Toronto where it quickly became a cult phenomenon. Days after opening, people were lined up around the block to see the show, which later spawned an additional production in Montreal. More than 500 “Evil Dead” productions have been produced around the world, from Seoul (where it won the Korean equivalency of the Tony Award) to Madrid, Tokyo, Las Vegas and New York, splattering hundreds of thousands of people with fake blood for over 15 years.

The campy comedic musical takes all the elements of the “Evil Dead” films, “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2,” and “Army of Darkness,” combining them in what it’s creators call, “One of the craziest, funniest, and bloodiest theatrical experiences of all time.” Local director Kalani Whitford summarized “Evil Dead’s” stock plot. “Five college students break into an abandoned cabin in the woods to drink and smoke and have sex, but things go very wrong after they inadvertently unleash an evil force onto the Earth that turns them into demons,” he explained. After this commonplace occurrence, it’s all up to Ash (Jake Pecaut) and his trusty chainsaw to save the day.

Whitford shared a rehearsal story of that particular scene. “One of the cast members said, ‘This is a straight guy’s dream dance solo.’ It’s a choreographed scene, he’s killing everyone in every way possible. He’s beating people, cutting off limbs with a chainsaw, blowing people away with a shot gun, and cutting off their heads. It’s a bloodbath,” he said.

I asked Whitford why he chose to direct “Evil Dead.”

Natassja Porcella (top) and Julia Schwentor are shown in a scene from “The Graduate.” The Maui OnStage production concludes this weekend at the Historic Iao Theater. ORA SCOTT photo

“For the Blood,” he exclaimed. “But also, I love the movies. I saw them all as a kid. I love horror and musical theater, so it was the perfect combo and this show is just so ridiculous.”

Like all of the international productions over the years, ProArt’s “Evil Dead” will include a splash zone — higher priced seating where you are virtually guaranteed to be soaked in faux blood. “It’s the first two rows,” said Whitford. “You’re provided with a free poncho, but at the production I saw in Portland, many wore all white and left the ponchos on the floor. Oh yes, there will be blood, a lot of it. They’re (the Kihei audiences) going to get it, so I hope everyone is prepared for this,” he forewarned. “To me the audience is what the show is about — they’re a part of the show, and it’s a very different theatrical experience,” he added.

Whitford has the reputation of directing some of Maui’s biggest hit musicals ever, like this summer’s “Mamma Mia!” and 2018’s “Cabaret.”

“Evil Dead” appears primed to follow suit. He talked about the cast and crew and what audiences can expect. “We have a cast of 10, and they’re a fun young group that’s really into the production. Almost too much,” he mused.

“We also have three new actors to Maui (Mikel Gosney, William Nill and Pecaut). It’s been really fun to work with new people.”

Also starring in the pop-rock musical are Maui stage veterans Don Carlson, Laura Lee Cole, Felicia Chernicki-Wulf, Lia De Souza, Derek Nakagawa, co-producer Jim Oxborrow and Patty Lee Sylva.

“Whether or not you’ve seen any of these films, you’ve seen 1980s formula horror movies and you’ll have a good time. It’s kind of like commedia dell’arte. The actors are going full-tilt — as campy as we can possibly go. Daniel Vicars is doing all of the special effect gags, and there’s quite a lot. It’s shocking, but not gory. Its ridiculous violence. I don’t think it’s scary at all. It’s just pure silliness,” related Whitford.

• Roseox Productions and ProArts present the Hawaii premier of “Evil Dead the Musical,” book, music and lyrics by George Reinblatt, directed and choreographed by Kalani Whitford, under the musical direction of Marti Kluth. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, starting Friday, Oct. 18 through Nov. 3 at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. There will be two performances at 7 and 10 p.m. on Halloween. Tickets are $30, and $40 for “splash zone” seating. “Evil Dead the Musical” is restricted to audiences age 18 and over due to strong adult content. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

THIS WEEK

Maui OnStage concludes “The Graduate” adapted by Terry Johnson, based on the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, directed by Rick Scheideman. This new look “The Graduate” is teeming with artistic beauty, amusement, passion of spirit and an engrossing examination of flawed humans. The local cast includes Elisha Cullins as Benjamin Braddock, Kim Dobson and David Negaard as Mr. and Mrs. Braddock, Marsi Smith as Mrs. Robinson, Julia Schwentor as Elaine Robinson and Lou Young as Mr. Robinson. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $20 to $40. “The Graduate” contains adult themes that may not be appropriate for all audiences. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

Maui OnStage’s ONO! (One Night Only) series returns with a staged reading of “Bus Stop” by William Inge, starring Megan Caccamo, Rueben Carrion, Stephanie Garrett, Ricky Jones, Orion Milligan, Ally Shore, Russell Taft and Jonathan Yudis. This 1950’s quasi-romantic comedy-drama is set in a rural diner west of Kansas City during a snowstorm. Bo, a naive and wild young rodeo star kidnaps Cherie, an aspiring nightclub singer, with the intention of marrying her against her will. The performance is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The free ONO! events happen every second Monday of the month. For more information visit www.mauionstage.com

The Lanai Academy of Performing Arts presents their original production, “Day of Conquest: The Story of Kaulula’au.” When a rebellious young prince is banished to the island of life-taking spirit, he must learn to rely on the island’s unique resources to survive. Aided by only his tricks and the enigmatic god, Lono, Kaulula’au’s epic journey around ancient Lanai brings him face to face with a wild array of ghost-gods who force him to finally choose between being a reckless troublemaker and being a leader of the land. Performances are at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10 through 13 in the Lanai High and Elementary School. Donations are requested at these free youth performances. For more information visit www.lanaiacademy.org.

UPCOMING

Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “Rock of Ages,” book by Chris D’Arienzo, musical arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, directed by Dejah Padon, choreographed by Rachel Lockhart, and under the musical direction of Kristen D.F. Otterson. This squeaky-clean teen adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway rock musical features the hits of Journey, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and many more. Set on L.A.’s famous Sunset Strip in 1987, “Rock of Ages” tells the story of Drew, a city boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, who have both traveled to Hollywood to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 25 through 27 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $12 adults, $6 children. 

To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.