I had no idea what to expect when I accepted the offer to attend and cover Evil Dead In Concert: A Halloween Experience. And after attending the show, if I had been giving 1000 attempts, I never would have gotten close to guessing what this insane and absolutely amazing show was going to be. I tweeted during the intermission that this show was “batshit crazy in all the right ways,” and I stand by that description even after the show ended.
The show was held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. I have lived in the Los Angeles area all my life and I had never heard of this theater, but it seems that I have definitely been missing out. Built in 1927 by the United Artists film studio, owned by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith. This theater definitely has historical significance for the city, and its Spanish Gothic architecture gave it the perfect look to host the first ever Evil Dead In Concert: A Halloween Experience.
The event was hosted by the Ash man himself, Bruce Campbell. However, Campbell was not the driving force behind this event, that instead was the composer of The Evil Dead, Joseph LoDuca. The Evil Dead was the first film that LoDuca composed the score for, and in all the years since he has been very busy with films and tv shows including – Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, the Spartacus tv shows, The Librarians, Ash vs Evil Dead, and many more.
Since this was not just another showing of The Evil Dead, this was a theatrical experience, so in the lobby they were selling a print made for the film by acclaimed artist Tara McPherson. Tara was actually there in person signing each print, limited to 150, and I was lucky enough to be the first person to purchase the print and am I ever glad I did. It is a gorgeous and unique piece of art and the picture does not do justice to what it looks like in persons. The print has five colors and was screen printed in such a way that the textures and layering are some of the best I’ve seen on a screen print.
Also being sold was a red vinyl 45 inch single, limited edition release of LoDuca’s Evil Dead A Nightmare Reimagined. The limited release of 500 copies had sleeve artwork by Jason Edmiston.
From the lobby it was on with the show, but how did the show come about? Thankfully I had the opportunity to speak to LoDuca for a few minutes before the show.
Joshua Stone: This is a very exciting week for me, being here tonight to watch this and on Friday I will be at the Hollywood Bowl to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas Live In Concert.
Joseph LoDuca: I saw that last year, it was amazing.
JS: I know, I saw the picture of you with Danny Elfman. I was curious, did that inspire you to do this?
JL: This has been in the works for a while. I had the idea to redo the soundtrack, which led to the idea of let’s do a concert, which led to the idea from Richard Kraft, being Danny’s agent and producer as well as mine, seeing that there’s this idea of theatrical elements that can get involved, not just playing a concert. So, it was time, and with the series Ash vs Evil Dead, everything was kind of building to this moment.
JS; At San Diego Comic-Con this year I was able to talk to Rob Tapert (Producer of The Evil Dead and Executive Producer of Ash vs Evil Dead), and he talked about how important this family is, that from the beginning, through all the different shows and films, you have been a part of.
JL: Yeah, I’m a survivor.
JS: How has it been being part of this family for over 35 years?
JL: It’s tremendous. What’s so great is that these are the people we started with. We started when we were kids. I was barely in college when I wrote the first Evil Dead. It was just on a lark that I found these three guys so enormously entertaining and so out of my direct circle of friends and my world in music, that I just said I’m in, and I’ve been in ever since.
JS: This event, are you going to take it on the road?
JL: We’re testing it. Obviously it’s a lot of effort to put in for one night, so we are obviously hoping now that we mounted the show, there is this idea of taking it to Comic-Cons and Horror Festivals.
JS: Great, thank you Joe.
Also in attendance, was one of the show’s Co-Directors, Richard Kraft, and as LoDuca mentioned, he is the agent of not only LoDuca and Danny Elfman, but also Alan Menken, which is why Kraft has produced both The Little Mermaid and The Nightmare Before Christmas live in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Kraft said fitting The Evil Dead into a theatrical live concert to film as the other two films were was more difficult. Kraft said, “Evil Dead’s not exactly a musical, but we found a really screwed up way of turning it into a movie that has a musical numbers.”
After talking to Kraft it was on with the show. Before the main course of the movie, LoDuca provided an appetizer for the audience’s eyes and ears. Opening the show was Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood, Evanna Lynch, and violinist Lili Haydn, performing the World Premiere of LoDuca’s The Tell-Tale Heart: A Duet In Terror based on Edgar Allan Poe’s horror classic. The performances by Lynch and Haydn were at the same time beautiful and touching, and dark and disturbing. It was so good that it inspired me to go out and buy a copy of the complete works of Poe the next day.
After that, the man himself, Bruce Campbell, took the stage. Campbell and a zombie like bellhop explained the premise of the show. Making use of the theater’s age and look, they said that The Theatre at Ace Hotel is haunted by the ghostly remains of singers and musicians from jazz’s golden age. These ghosts would be providing song and dance numbers throughout the film. Additionally, while the film played, LA’s wild Up chamber orchestra performed LoDuca’s re-imagined score live to picture. LoDuca also performed with the orchestra.
Before I touch on the performances, I need to say I haven’t watched The Evil Dead in probably 10 years, and never before in a theater. Being able to see the film in a theater with over a thousand people, who are all fans, was a completely different experience. To be able to laugh at all the ridiculous scenes, whether it’s when Mark’s hair keeps changing from one moment to the next or when there is no blood on an axe used to chop up a body and then when the axe is thrown to the ground it is suddenly covered in blood. If you’re a fan of the film I would recommend reading Campbell’s first book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, to fully understand what an undertaking it was to make this film and why there are scenes like these in it.
The song and dance numbers were delightful and absolutely added to the overall experience. There were about six or so of these numbers, and they were both funny and amazing to watch, whether it was because of the choreography, the songs themselves, or the make-up and costumes. Everything was topnotch and probably at the level of a Broadway or off Broadway show.
The show was a triumph for LoDuca and everyone involved, and if you have a chance to see it in the future at a convention or festival, I would highly recommend you do not pass up the opportunity.
For further musings from the Joshua Stone, follow him on the Twitter @1NerdyOne
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