It often seems like there are only two types of musicals being made right now. If they're not based on the songbooks of pop stars, they're based on popular movies, from Footloose to Legally Blonde. In this week alone, the musical The Full Monty is playing Point Richmond's Masquers Playhouse, and a national tour of Hairspray is at the Orpheum in San Francisco. Then there are adaptations never meant for Broadway, fringe shows like Evil Dead: The Musical at the Willows Theatre Company's Martinez Campbell Theatre.
Not to be confused with the Primitive Screwheads' Evil Dead: Live, this take on Sam Raimi's horror trilogy originated in Toronto last year. There's a splatter zone in which you get charged extra to be soaked with oddly milky gore, and cabaret seating with theme drinks such as "What the Fuck Was That," a shot of peach Schnapps, Irish cream, and grenadine.
Uneven both in essence and execution, George Reinblatt's script and lyrics are mostly made up of painful puns and memorable lines from the entire trilogy shoehorned in wherever possible. As far as one can tell from the prerecorded Casio accompaniment, the peppy music by Reinblatt and friends would be equally at home in Bring It On: The Musical if you ignore lyrics such as All the men in my life keep getting killed by Candarian demons. They're easy to overlook, because performers are badly miked and become hopelessly muffled with demon masks on.
The visual elements of Jon Tracy's staging are stronger, including walls that come alive and a puppet moose head. Greg Asdourian is hilarious as a stunt double who ambles out in work coveralls to recreate the film's special effects.
The appealing cast helps a lot. Michael Scott Wells is an expressive Ash, more earnest than the original but resembling Campbell when he makes faces. Meghan Ihle as his amiable girlfriend, Christopher Mantione as his loudmouthed buddy, Ji Kim as a dimwitted sex bomb, Alexandra Creighton as a clothes-shedding archeologist, and Corey Lenkner as a dodgy redneck. Lowell Abellon is oddly adorable as the littlest demon, and Jenny Angell has some priceless slapstick as little sister Cheryl, although as a demon she becomes incredibly irritating. When every newly demonized character crows "Look who's evil now!" it's more gagworthy than it is a worthy gag. But there are enough honestly funny moments to transcend the rough patches, and a show like this is largely going to attract an audience of fans who'll enjoy it no matter what.
Point Break Live! at San Francisco's Xenodrome has similar splatter appeal — the thrifty theatergoer can use the same plastic parka for both shows. Based on the 1991 movie about bank-robbing surfers, the show's gimmick is that it casts the Keanu Reeves role from the audience every night and gives him his lines on cue cards. Prompter Jamie Mayne also serves hysterically as his stunt double and cheerleader.
Although the production values are what you might expect of a dorm theme party, it's a very funny show, playing up the homoerotic subtext of the gang of surfers at every turn. Besides the Keanu du jour you have James Cotner doing his best Gary Busey as a debauched FBI agent, Sharon Rylander getting the crowd amped as director Kathryn Bigelow and surf moll Tyler, Ted Harvey making crazy eyes in the Patrick Swayze role of surf guru Bodhi, and Benjamin Weldon as the nuttiest of the surfers.
Across town at Exit Stage Left, Sean Owens has adapted three horror classics for Attack of the Killer B-Movies. Having completed separate runs at the Dark Room in the Mission, the three Bs are performed in rotating double bills through this weekend. The best of the lot is The Blob, a hilariously campy retro romp in which bobbysoxers are menaced by a big red hunk of latex. There's clever humor about the 1950s setting and selectively mimed props. Some performances are a lot stronger than others in all three plays, but Alexia Staniotes is particularly funny as the chirpy teenage heroine.
Like the Hitchcock original, The Birds is comparatively staid, but the avian effects are a hoot, from shadow puppets to actors simulating bird attacks with their hands fluttering in front of their faces.
The third show, The Bad Seed, was shut down last Wednesday by a cease-and-desist order, so Owens quickly rewrote it as an original show, The Bitter Fruit. It was performed Friday with scripts in hand, which slowed down the pace considerably. Owens steals his own show with a knockout turn as the murderous little girl, although Gerry Lawlor gives him a run for his money as a sloshed grieving mother. Having been forcibly freed from the original may even have done the show some good, occasioning very funny lines about the contrived premise and the legal snafus. Given time, this Fruit could be polished into a gem.
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