‘Evil Dead’ musical may call to cult fans

Magicians, impressionists, impersonators, topless dancers and … bloody chain saws?

The thin line between shows for “locals” versus “tourists” gets a little more blurred when the Plaza hosts an open-ended run of “Evil Dead: The Musical” starting next month .

Even if it’s just a 100-seat theater, the stationary run opens the door to a new genre of tourist choices. Director Sirc Michaels calls it “4-D interactive,” with audience participation in the campy vein of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“This is appealing to a general market that is ignored across the board,” Michaels says. Younger audiences in particular, “who think theater is stupid.”

Michaels has helmed “Evil Dead” twice at the Onyx Theatre, in October and January. It’s part of a recent flood of community-based productions with B-movie themes, including Michaels’ current “Bad Head.”

But “Dead” is a brand of its own, pulling in specific fans of the cult movies it’s based upon. It had an off-Broadway run in 2006, and productions around the country have reinforced it as an entity apart from the films.

“The future looks really bright for the show,” Michaels says. “We’re pulling in people that don’t normally go to casinos.”

Campy theater hasn’t really had a fair test in the casino environment. “Point Break Live!” was a nonstarter in 2008, underfunded and closing before it officially opened on the Strip.

“Evil Dead’ will be hosted by the Insurgo Theater, which leases the small theater at the Plaza. Insurgo’s John Beane adds that even more high-minded productions such as “Faustus” have been supported by hotel guests and visitors.

“Part of the attraction of jumping into the casino is trying to court that audience,” Beane says of a market he describes as “infinitely growing.” …

Sunday’s column looked back at the crazy Las Vegas career of longtime Excalibur entertainment director Mike Hartzell. I didn’t want to pull from the focus of a short column, but Hartzell revealed “Tournament of Kings” is nearly done with a long-awaited face-lift.

This is the first major makeover since 1999, when the jousting-knight revue also started using the current title. (It opened in 1990 as “King Arthur’s Tournament.”)

The reinvestment ends several years of limbo when the casino couldn’t commit to either keeping it or closing it, and couldn’t even figure out a way to give the 900-seat basement venue to Cirque du Soleil (the room is too small and would be too costly to expand).

The medieval revue now sports new costumes and a completely refurbished set. The lighting is getting redesigned and in the coming weeks, two new horses will perform a dressage-style sequence to give the fast-paced revue “a few minutes to pull back and have something beautiful to look at,” Hartzell noted. …

Montreal conquered Las Vegas. Now comes the counterinvasion. Though it will hardly impact the trade imbalance of Cirque du Soleil’s seven shows on the Strip, it’s fun to see “The Rat Pack is Back” will play as part of the Montreal Jazz Festival in Cirque’s home city on July 7.

Producer Dick Feeney says a promoter from the festival was among the impressive crowd for a February one-nighter in Montreal, in a theater much larger than the Rio showroom where it plays here in town. …

Speaking of reciprocity, Imperial Palace headliners Human Nature are riding a big push that came from their appearance last week on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

The TV exposure boosted sales of “The Motown Record,” a U.S. release on Universal Music mixing new tracks with some from the vocal group’s previous Australian disc “Reach Out.”

The Australian quartet caps a PBS-affiliated tour with a Sunday show at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Sunday; they reopen on the Strip on May 14. …

A year ago this week, the Las Vegas Rock Reunion revisited the garage (and professional) bands of the ’60s and ’70s, when far fewer teens called themselves locals.

Filmmaker G. John Slagle recorded the event with four cameras and 64 hours of footage. He spent the past year cutting it into a two-hour film, “Strip Away the Years – ’60s and ’70s Las Vegas Bands Together Again.” You can see it at noon Saturday in a one-time screening at the Century 12 in Henderson. A $15 ticket benefits several local organizations.

The reunion is taking this year off but plans to be back next year with a focus on the ’80s. …

What a deal! You can meet Grandma Lee for only $182.05! Ticket prices don’t phase me much anymore, since most of them are inflated to be discounted.

But I had to laugh at the beyond-VIP price (which in itself is $91.10) for the honor of meeting the soon-to-be 78-year-old stand-up, the late career bloomer discovered by “America’s Got Talent” in 2009.

Lee starts a two-month run May 31 in the King’s Room at the Rio. Regular tickets are $72.60.

By comparison, it will cost $60 for a meet-and-greet ticket to see Taylor Hicks, who actually won “American Idol.” Does that mean it’s more prestigious to simply crack the Top 10 of “Talent”? Just asking.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at
mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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