Schuster Theatre brings dead to life on stage

Gannon’s student-and faculty-produced musical entertains campus


Madeline Bruce, Editor-in-Chief

Schuster Theatre’s “Evil Dead: The Musical” opened Thursday, the first indoor show hosted by the theater since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The musical, based on the “Evil Dead” film franchise written by Sam Raimi, follows four college students as they spend spring break in an isolated cabin in a remote wooded area. In that cabin is the book “Necronomicon Ex-Mortis,” which thrusts the group into the world of the evil dead.
The humor in the production is largely satirical, with outrageous themes like sex, gore and immature love emphasized for dramatic effect.
The musical opens with the four college students – main character Ash, his best friend Scott, sister Cheryl, girlfriend Linda and Scott’s, er, girlfriend Shelly, traveling to the cabin, ready to have the fun you would expect from a beach vacation, not a spring break trip in an isolated forest cabin surrounded by trees with faces.
The set design is a perfect testament to an old, abandoned cabin in the woods, complete with a creepy cellar and a taxidermized moose head on the wall. The trees with faces, very obviously carried on and off stage by the zombified members of the cast, contributed to the satirical effect of the play.
Sophomore Anthony Nunez makes his Schuster Theatre debut as the musical’s protagonist, Ash, a college student and “S-Mart” employee who is clearly the leader of his group of friends.
Nunez’s performance showed promising talent, as did sophomore Stella Przybylinski, who played Ash’s girlfriend, Linda.
The play included musical renditions such as “Housewares Employee,” chronicling the love story of Ash and Linda, and “Good Old Reliable Jake,” sung by returning Schuster Theatre star and sophomore Hayden Eiss, who dazzled the audience with his infallible representation of the reliable countrified farmer with over-the-top reactions and the perfect accent to boot.
As the plot of the play unfolded, more and more characters become part of the “evil dead” after being attacked by the zombies that lurk in the forest outside the cabin. Each returns to the stage after their harrowing experience among the wicked trees with zombie masks, screaming “Look who’s evil now!” at their friends and the audience.
The zombification starts with Ash’s sister Cheryl, played by returning Schuster star and junior Lydia Nemeth. To keep Cheryl away from everyone else in the cabin, Ash locks her in the basement with some loose-fitting chains. This allows her to stand in the doorway and taunt the others who have yet to be zombified with bad puns and shrieks that can be heard from across Sassafras Street.
The next to be zombified is Shelly, played by Grace Dible, who returns to the Schuster stage after playing the titular character Hrotsvitha in the spring production of “Hrotsvitha.”
Shelly doesn’t last long, though, as she is shot by Scott in an effort to save both himself and Ash from joining the evil dead.
After Ash’s friends drop like zombified flies, one by one, he is met by Annie, the daughter of the professor who owned the cabin. Played by senior Bre Womble, Annie is a self-centered dramatist who takes the center of attention as soon as she enters the room.
Together, Ash and Annie take on the evil dead through musical numbers and chanting spells.
While the play was at times confusing, it held the audience’s attention with its quality satire and constant plot twists.
If you’re looking for a Halloween-esque show that will make you laugh, check out “Evil Dead: The Musical” this weekend at the Schuster Theatre. Tickets for shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday are on sale now at