It’s Monday night before the Tuesday preview and James Padilla finally has a moment to talk about his leading role in Evil Dead: The Musical. “It’s my dream role. I’m a big fan of the movies so I definitely wanted to be Ash,” said Padilla. The tall, dark-haired actor has the burly good looks necessary to fill the role indelibly created by Bruce Campbell. For Padilla, who has appeared around town in roles as diverse as Mr. Rochester in Seattle Musical Theatre’s Jane Eyre and a high school student in this summer’s Yellow Wood, this was his most anticipated role of recent years.
“I’ve known that they were going to do this for months and months before the rehearsals began. Chris [Zinovitch, the director] e-mailed some of us that this was coming. And then there were the auditions, the call-backs, and then more waiting for rehearsals to start. The anticipation was killing me.”
Padilla spent the time learning such songs as “Blew That Bitch Away.” He said: “That’s probably my favorite to perform, but there’s a number of close seconds. The music is a mix of rock and pop, with a lot of camp!”
The show has been a enormous hit since a bunch of Canadians decided to turn the horror trilogy into a musical in 2004. Currently, there are productions running from New York to California.
“In some ways, I can’t believe that nobody has ever done this in Seattle before,” said Padilla. “But it’s a tough show. Bigger theaters that could afford it are not the best venue. It needs to be small and intimate for the audience. But smaller theaters might not have the budget. ArtsWest is just the perfect size for this.”
In the Evil Dead movies, and in the musical, Ash finds himself battling “evil dead” who infest the bodies of his friends. Forced to fight them off with whatever tools come to hand, including one mighty chainsaw, Ash literally hacks his way to freedom, cutting down or off anything that stands in his way. “It’s pretty exhausting. I’m constantly being beat up, beating up somebody, running at something, running away from something,” said Padilla. Unlike Campbell, the musical’s Ash gets no breaks and has to sing and dance as well.
He also hears his audiences’ screams. In the musical, the bloody thrills are definitely gory and in-your-face. ArtsWest invested in literally dozens of water guns to launch the blood across the stage into the audience. “We have a spatter zone!” said Padilla. “There’s a tradition with this musical that people come in white, sit in the front row, and go home with bloody clothes as a souvenir.”