BWW Interview: Jamie Warrow of EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL at The City Theatre says It's a Bloody, Campy Take on the Horror Genre!
The hysterical, gory tradition of Evil Dead: The Musical is returning to the City Theatre starting September 27th inside Hockeytown Cafe in Detroit. The cult classic is a favorite here in the Motor City, which is the reason it is back for a tenth season packed full of talented local cast members - some brand new and others excitedly welcomed back. Evil Dead: The Musical is based on Sam Raimi's 1980's cult classic films and have all the horror, gore, and theatre campiness that audience members want. Director and producer, Jamie Warrow, took time out of her busy schedule before the show opens on September 27th at the City Theatre to speak with BroadwayWorld Detroit about her love for the production, what it has been liking working on it for the past ten years, and what makes this year of Evil Dead: The Musical so special.
BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?
Jamie Warrow: I graduated from Wayne State University with BFA in Theatre Performance and then went back to school in early 2000s to become a lawyer. During the time between when I got my BFA and my law degree, I was a theatre artist around town. I started a theatre company called Real Alternative Theatre. In 2007, I started The Ringwald Theatre with Joe Bailey. I stopped being affiliated with The Ringwald at the end of 2015. I took over the production of Evil Dead: The Musical because I had produced it as part of the Ringwald for the years when I was affiliated with it and I took that as my share as I guess you would call it a "business divorce" and I have been producing it ever since.
BWW Detroit: Have you've been involved with Evil Dead: The Musical since the beginning?
Jamie Warrow: It was produced one year at The Ringwald Theatre and then nine years at the City Theatre. This year, we are celebrating its tenth year! And we actually now call it Evil Dead: The Musical Detroit because we've produced it here for ten years in the Detroit area and nine years at the City Theatre. I've produced it every year that it's been operating and I've directed it the past two years.
BWW Detroit: How would describe the show in your own words?
Jamie Warrow: First and foremost, it's a campy, bloody spoof on the horror genre. It is a really smart homage to the Sam Raimi cult classic of the Evil Dead series: Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness; most of the source material comes from Evil Dead II, but it's pulled from all three. It's just a lot of fun. I think it has a standing in the Detroit area because it does have roots in Michigan with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (the film's star) both being from Michigan and with the movie being shot, at least in part, here. I think that because of the Michigan references in the film and in our musical, it keeps audiences engaged because they are so familiar with the idea of going out to cabin in the woods - I mean that is what Michiganders do when for their summer fun - so I think that is part of the appeal. It has a nice following, the musical itself, and over the past ten years, we've cultivated a really great group of followers who like to not just return year after year, but they return week after week. We have people come two or three times during the run of the show just to see it. I think it's a show that people enjoy coming to because if you know the Evil Dead movies you'll get a lot of the inside jokes of the musical, but even if you don't it's still a lot of fun to see this sort of campy take on the horror genre.
BWW Detroit: How did you first get involved with Evil Dead: The Musical? And what makes you want to keep coming back and being involved with it with year after year?
Jamie Warrow: To be honest, this show was part of The Ringwald's 2008 season and it was selected by Joe Bailey. It was so fun in that intimate space. I loved what we did there and when we transported it to the City Theatre. What I like about it is, I like watching the audience about as much as I like watching the show because they get splattered; they get bloody; they get the jokes; what's fun for me is that interaction that the audience has with the show. It's kind of like a Rocky Horror experience that people know the lines, they know they bits coming up, they talk back to the characters, and the actors have a real challenge where they are on their toes the entire show in order to feel a lot of what the audience brings to it.
BWW Detroit: Did you do any special research as for directing the show?
Jamie Warrow: I watch the movies and note certain bits that I think are iconic moments in the film that should be transported to the stage. I make sure that the actors have seen the movies because when you are doing an homage you can't do it half-assed, you have to do it as sort of done in the movies. There are people who love watch the movies year after year around Halloween and they will know when you are not saying "this is my boomstick" correctly or the hand fights or other certain moments in the show that if it's done shoddily or if it's not done with a wink and nod to the movie then it won't work and the audience will not receive it very well. I will first and foremost to admit that this show has grown with each director and with each cast. Certain things have been added and certain things have come and gone. It really is a tribute to all the past people who have worked on the show, what this show is today. I can't take all the credit for what you see on stage as a director as could not one of the other directors; everything has been built on all this experience that we have done over the past ten years. But, I'm particularly fond of this year, I will say that, this is a particularly special year. Garrett Michael Harris is playing Ash and he's so good at it. He's perfect. I'm really excited to see how the audience reacts to him. We have Facebook fan page that has a nice following and when we announced that he was playing the role, people were going crazy because he's played the role of Scotty for years and people were very excited to hear that he was going to move to Ash.
BWW Detroit: You say you are particularly fond of this year, could you elaborate on what makes this year so special in your mind?
Jamie Warrow: The cast itself I would say is the first and foremost reason because they are the ones that make this show and there has been a lot of creativity in our rehearsals. Garrett Michael Harris being in the lead role is particularly exciting because he's so creative and so flexible. His facial pyrotechnics are insane. He reminds me of how he looks like Bruce Campbell, but the way he's working it, it's almost Jim Carrey-esque. That's pretty thrilling. I hired another actor by the name of Colleen Bielman who is playing the role of Cheryl and I think she brought a refreshing youthfulness to the role that I'm excited to see. We have new effects that we are trying out for the first time - new blood effects, new actors, people really seem really focused in on this year as being part of the tenth anniversary, there seems to be a different sort of energy even from the co-producer, which is 313 Presents. I don't know if that's the best answer, but this year feels special, it feels different, and I'm excited about it!
BWW Detroit: Since Evil Dead: The Musical is a well-known show here in Detroit and from the movies as well, what makes it stand out?
Jamie Warrow: It can be a whole night out within one area - it's a destination show. The district in Detroit is now really hopping with different restaurants all over. Once you are in Hockeytown Cafe, the restaurant attached to the theatre, you can bring your drinks inside the theatre so it is set up to be sort of a cabaret style atmosphere even though you are in standard theatre seating to have a drink and enjoy the show, so that is one aspect. Then as far as the show itself, I think it has a specific Michigan draw because the horror movies are specifically tailored to the Michigan audiences with Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi being from Michigan and referencing Michigan and Michigan State. I think there are a lot of people who come that know the movies and know that there is a lot of attention to detail with the Michigan references. I think that if you don't know the movies, it's okay, because overall the musical is designed to be an homage to horror genre in general, so you can still get the wink and nod to the horror like the fright build up, the being scared, and the sort of being mocked as far as in a campy way with the song.
BWW Detroit: What would you say to someone who had tickets to another event or Evil Dead: The Musical, why should they come see you?
Jamie Warrow: This show is really well produced with a really professional quality to not only the attention to detail with the source material, but we have a cast and crew that are high caliber. It's a high energy, fun ride. Once you are there, you are on your roller coaster that you get on and you just hold tight. It's really a great time. It's not a serious theatre piece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is something that is worthwhile, especially if you are a fan of the movies. I will also say that I don't think anybody else in the area is offering a splatter zone, so if you want to have fun and sit and get all bloody during the show, there are moments that if you sit in the first five rows that you definitely will experience that, so that would make the show special. I think that if you know the movies really well it's definitely something you should see because so tightly tied to that source material with that language, with its moments, and with its story it tells. It's pretty funny. But even if you don't, you are still going to enjoy it, the songs are clever and catchy and overall it's just a really fun time!
Evil Dead: The Musical opens September 27th and runs through October 27th at the City Theatre inside Hockeytown Cafe in Detroit. For more information and tickets, visit www.313Presents.com.