By Steve Tabet
Deadites and demons and chainsaws, oh my! We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. No, we’re at the Stageworks Theatre in downtown Tampa, watching a delightfully campy and outrageous presentation of Evil Dead: The Musical. Founded in 1983, Stageworks is Tampa’s longest-running professional theater company (www.stageworkstheater.org). It’s kicked off its 2021-2022 season with a musical adaptation of the B-horror/comedy movie trilogy of The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.
Filmed in 1981, the first movie of the series tells the tale of a group of friends staying in an isolated cabin in the woods (of course). In the basement, they find a strange book and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. While playing the tape, they discover that the cabin had been owned by an archeologist who had deciphered the book, an ancient Sumerian text filled with warnings about demonic spirits in the forest. As the tape plays, and the archeologist’s voice reads incantations from the book, an evil spirit rises in the forest, with violence and death sure to follow. The rest of the first movie, and the two sequels that follow, show the actions of the main protagonist (Ash) as he battles demons and deadites (zombies) in his attempt to save the world from demonic domination.
The musical adaptation takes elements from all three movies and adds singing and a few dance numbers, resulting in a crowd-pleasing story. Most of the actors are students at the University of Tampa, and all perform their roles with gusto, fleshing out the characters and delivering a hilarious performance. Live musicians offstage provide musical accompaniment, and the intimate theater seating (99 seats) ensures a fantastic view for every patron. For this show, the first two rows are a ‘splatter zone,’ complete with plastic-covered seats and a poncho conveniently placed on each seat.
Light refreshments, including beer, wine, soda and snacks, are available before showtime and during intermission. Tickets are general admission, so plan on arriving early if you want to make sure you get a seat in (or not in) the splatter zone, but you’ll see a great show no matter where you sit. With some risqué scenes and strong language throughout, this definitely isn’t a show for kids. However, it makes for a very entertaining afternoon or evening, and it’s well worth the price ($35-40). Shows are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with matinees at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, October 31.
Stageworks Theater is located at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd suite #151, Tampa, FL 33602. For more info and tickets, call 374-2416 or visit www.stageworkstheatre.org.