5 & Dime’s Halloween No-Splatter Zone Treat “EVIL DEAD”


A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
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Jacksonville’s Downtown 5 & Dime Theatre opened “Evil Dead: The Musical” on October 13, 2017. It will run through October 28, and is sponsored by Vanity Furs and Jacksonville Chiropractic & Acupuncture. The musical, based on an earlier film series, debuted in Canada in 2003 and played Off-Broadway for three months during 2006-2007. Subsequent tours and productions by professional and community theatres throughout the states followed.

The month of October was perfect timing for the 5 & Dime’s production, since we’re prepared to be mystified and terrified as Halloween approaches.

The story is that of five college students who spend a weekend in a remote cabin in the woods. They are planning on having a good time filled with relaxation and recreation during their escape from their studies, but fate has other plans. Shortly after arriving, they find an ancient Book of the Dead and a tape-recorded message that summons demons, and are soon seized and possessed by evil spirits.

The leading characters Ash (Jay Bilderback) and his best friend Scott (Gary Baker) have brought their girlfriends with them, and Ash has also invited his sister Cheryl (Joanna Yeakel) along. Ash sings a lovely duet with his steady squeeze Linda (Sade Crosby) entitled “Housewares Employee,” then decapitates her with a chainsaw in a very funny scene.

Meanwhile, young Cheryl, possessed by evil, sings “It Won’t Let Us Leave” and is locked away in the cellar by her brother. The foul-mouthed Scott blows away his true love Shelly (Kat McLeod Raspa) after she sings “Look Who’s Evil Now.”

You can never have enough characters in a musical like this, and the group expands when Annie (Eva Sonnenberg Matthews), the daughter of the deceased owner of the cabin arrives with her boyfriend Ed (Neal Thorburn) and friend Jake (Bryce Cofield). In the second act, Annie, Jake, and Ash sing the rousing “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Kandarian Demons,” which summarizes a major problem they’re facing.

The final five characters in the show are listed as “shemps” in the program. Never heard the word? Neither had we, but with research, found it refers to someone who appears in a film as a replacement for another actor. Here, the shemps portray the demons that are ruining the weekend for the college kids. Their colorful costumes by Emily Moody Rosete and Wolf & Cub are outstanding. Other duties include dancing and singing up a storm in two full-cast numbers during the second act: “Do The Necronomicon” and “It’s Time.” The shemps include Jonathan Leonard, Leanne Gullo, Frank Sanabria II, Tyrone Thornhill, and Jenna Bourne. Mr. Leonard doubles back as the voice of the talking moose and Mr. Sanabria is the voice of the tape-recorded demon.

The excellent band includes Musical Director Ben Beck, who is also on piano, with Aaron Jennings on drums, and Jade Martin on guitar.

The 5 & Dime could not have selected a better director for this show than Christopher P. Farrell. He has directed a number of well-received plays in the past, and has also appeared in many hilarious roles on our local stages.

Jocelyn Geronimo did the terrific chorography, and did wonders with this large cast on a small stage.

The play calls for blood, lots of it. Some groups establish a spatter zone in the first few rows and substitute a liquid like cherry juice for blood. While the 5 & Dime doesn’t have a spatter zone, they do use copious amounts of blood – but don’t be afraid to wear your best and sit in the front row when you go.

Set Designer Tom Fallon’s set, filled with special effects, greatly enhanced the story and the atmosphere of this musical.

The production crew included Christopher P. Farrell (Director), Abigail Saenz (Assistant Director), Ben Beck (Music Director), Jocelyn Geromino (Choreography), Katie Cress (Stage Manager), Tyler Lewis (Assistant Stage Manager), Angie Smith (Musical Staging), Curtis Lyles (Fight Choreography), Frank Sanabria (Fight Captain), Tom Fallon (Set Design), Austin Kelm (Lighting Design), and Savannah LeNoble (Spotlight).

If you like the Rocky Horror Show, you are going to love this show. Note that it’s R rated for content and language, and is a bit sophomoric. And it’s hilarious and contains some extraordinary acting, physical comedy, and voices.

Next up for 5 & Dime is “HIR,” a dark comedy directed by Josh Waller and opening December 1, 2017. For reservations and additional information, call 904-637-5100, or visit their website at the5anddime.org. The company also has a facebook page.

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About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.