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Stageworks goes full Halloween with ‘Evil Dead The Musical’

Bill DeYoung

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In "Evil Dead The Musical" at Stageworks, from left: Jaryn McCann, Max Dalton, Katie Terres, Dylan Bange and Hannah Perrault. Photos: Stageworks Theatre.

Tampa’s Stageworks Theatre has just one thing in common with SeaWorld Orlando.

A splash zone.

While kids have delighted for decades in the sheets of salty water flung from SeaWorld’s orca presentations into the first rows of seats, at Stageworks, the experience is a little … different.

The liquid being splashed is blood.

It’s fake blood, to be sure, just as the grisly murders and dismemberments that take place in Evil Dead The Musical, one after another, aren’t real either. It’s all part of the Halloween-season spirit.

“We decided to make sure everybody got in on the action,” said Stageworks artistic director Karla Hartley, who’s at the helm of the musical satire, opening tonight. “So at the top, we hand out ponchos for the people in the first couple of rows. And they can wear them or not.”

At Thursday night’s sold-out preview, “Several people wore all white, just hoping to get some blood on them.”

If you haven’t guessed, this is all in fun. Evil Dead the Musical, which is loosely based on the 1980s Sam Raimi film franchise (and a dozen other knife, chainsaw et cetera movies) is a theatrical send-up, with songs titles including “It Won’t Let Us Leave,” “Good Old Reliable Jake” and “Ode to an Accidental Stabbing.” The cast is backed by a live, four-piece band.

George Reinblatt’s story starts like this: Five college students spend the night in an abandoned cabin in the woods.

What could possibly go wrong?

“I saw the play in New York, probably more than 10 years ago,” Hartley said. “And I thought it was super-fun. It was wild, it was crazy … and it’s really unlike anything we’ve ever decided to do here.”

There’s a cast of 13 in Evil Dead; the five college students are played by student actors from the University of Tampa’s Dept. of Theater, where Hartley is an adjunct professor.

Who better to play college kids than college kids, she asked herself. “And these five kids are just crazy talented.”

She hatched a partnership with department chair Michael Staczar to give the UT students their first chance to work in a professional setting. The cast also includes three professional actors.

The end result, Hartley said, is a bloody good Halloween show.

“I generally stay away from holiday-centric programming. It’s never been super-successful for us.

“But I think this is going to be different.”

All details and tickets here.

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