When the Omaha Community Playhouse opens “Evil Dead: The Musical” Friday, one thing's for certain.
There will be blood. Five to 6 gallons of the stuff each night.
The show includes seating options in a “splatter zone,” where audience members can literally be drenched in red. Despite what you might think, people are clamoring to sit in those seats. They're selling out early.
And behind the scenes, crew members have to deal with how to clean it all up.
It's all part of the Playhouse's new “Find Your Stage” marketing strategy, which puts more cutting-edge adult fare in the smaller Howard Drew Theatre.
The plot of “Evil Dead: The Musical” finds S-Mart employee Ash and four friends arriving at an isolated cabin in the woods over spring break. They find an audiotape and it releases demons that possess them.
Filmed in 1981 for $90,000, “The Evil Dead” became a cult hit that spawned two sequels. Director Sam Raimi went on to direct the Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, among other credits.
The 2003 musical spoof, faithful to the movie, is good, less-than-clean fun, says director Carl Beck, who cautions that the dialogue is as R-rated as the gore. The Playhouse hopes to attract new blood to its audience by appealing to younger horror fans.
For some, “Evil Dead” is a camp classic like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” so the Playhouse anticipates audience members shouting out infamous lines of dialogue.
The show originated in Toronto but became a regional-theater favorite after the New York Times dubbed a 2006 off-Broadway production “the next Rocky Horror.” It's been staged in more than 100 American cities. Online reviews indicate that the bloodier versions have been particularly well-received.
“We want to give a portion of the audience a hilarious, interactive experience,” Beck said last week while showing off the plumbing behind and under the stage that will gush fake blood. “That opens the biggest can of worms imaginable.”
Those “worms” include keeping the rest of the audience clean, keeping the fake blood from escaping the splatter zone and being tracked into the lobby, and keeping actors safe as they're sprayed in the face or treading on wet surfaces.
To protect those who don't want to be bloodied, the Playhouse is building a retaining wall behind the front row of seats, or the “splatter zone.” The three-foot wooden retaining wall, painted black, is low enough for people behind it to see clearly.
Splatter-zone guests each will get a plastic poncho, safety glasses and shoe-protecting booties.
The crew must launder costumes and mop up the mess each night, then dry the theater with big fans. They also have to protect sound equipment from moisture.
Props master Darin Kuehler had to find the right blood recipes for each specialized use. He's using a product called Blood Jam, a liquid he mixes with water to varying thicknesses so it trickles thickly out of a wound or gushes freely out of a nozzle.
He's also building a chainsaw that serves as one character's substitute hand and creating severed body parts, daggers made of “bones” and books made of “flesh.”
The show also has some blood-themed tie-ins, such as a dance, a speaker series and — what else — a blood drive. Blood donors will get a coupon for the Playhouse's next show.
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