Not that long ago Christopher Bond and his band of lunatic friends had the delightfully insane idea to turn the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell classic Evil Dead into a musical.
It started as a Fringe show in a tiny Toronto bar, but with catchy tunes like “What The Fuck Was That” and a guarantee to splatter blood all over the audience, the show took off. It became a cult hit in Toronto and then a genuine hit. Eventually the show played all over the world with even a Las Vegas installation to give gamblers a justified excuse to show up to a casino covered in blood. Evil Dead: The Musical was a brilliant bad taste success story that deserved every bit of blood-soaked success that came its way.
Shortly after that show’s first big Toronto run, Bond and his buddies concocted their follow up: a stage expansion of Trey South Park Parker’s film debut Cannibal: The Musical. Based on the unfortunate true story of Alferd Packer and his cannibalistic horror survival tale in the Colorado Rockies, Cannibal: The Musical was a goofy romp filled with carnage and elaborate musical numbers. In other words, it was an ideal follow up for the Evil Dead: The Musical team. Unfortunately, a few uncontrollable factors kept that show from reaching the stage at the time of conception. However, we’re all fortunate to have survived long enough to see the show finally coming to fruition. This weekend, the new and expanded stage show of Cannibal: The Musical debuts in Toronto for fans of the unusual. In celebration of this hilariously filthy creation, we got a chance to chat with the show’s co-writer/director Christopher Bond about following in the footsteps of Trey Parker and his previous cult success.
Comics Gaming Magazine: I remember seeing posters for your stage shoow of Cannibal: The Musical years ago after one of the first big Evil Dead: The Musical runs. What happened?
Christopher Bond: Yeah, there were a couple of things. We started going down this path while Evil Dead: The Musical was in Toronto. We got in touch with Jason McHugh who produced Cannibal: The Musical and said, “Hey, we’ve had this success with Evil Dead and we’ve got a super great audience who likes this type of theater and I think this would really fall in line with what our audience wants. But that said, we’d like to spruce it up a bit and give it the full feature musical treatment.” We wanted to change the structure a bit and write new songs, so at first they were like, “No.” (Laughs) Then we came back and told them that we had composed Evil Dead after that opened in the US and they said, “Oh we’ve heard of that. Go ahead and write the songs, but it probably won’t happen.” So we did and they said, “Hey, these are pretty good. Maybe we can try this and see if it works out.”
So that was forever ago and we were just going to do it in a little 100-seat theater and maybe move to a bigger space later. People were pumped for it and we were excited. Then all of a sudden we got two phone calls. The first was from Jason saying, “Yeah, Trey Parker’s working on this musical about Mormons, so we’ve got to put a hold on this for a while.” We were like, “Well, how good could that be? This won’t take long.” Whoops! (Laughs) Yeah, it’s the best show ever. Then the Diesel theatre shut down, which was a bummer because that’s where we did all of stuff. So we put it on a shelf and then a couple of years ago Book Of Mormon had played for a while and Jason told us that we could revisit it. So now we’re here.
CGM: Yeah, I wondered if Book Of Mormon was a factor because the timing was weirdly similar.
CB: Yeah, it was and what can you do? Obviously they did the right thing. That seemed to work out. (Laughs)
CGM: So have you gotten to meet Trey Parker through this process?
CB: Not really. We send everything through Jason. He’s our contact, but Trey is fully aware of the show and the new content. So we’ve got his authorization. That’s all we really know. We have their approval and we’ve sent them everything. We got some feedback too, which was fun. Just little notes about making sure this joke goes here and that sort of thing. So we’ve been working with those guys a bit, but have I met Trey Parker personally? No, sadly not. We’re hoping that he’ll swing by and see the show at some point. But he’s kind of a big fish. So who knows? Jason McHugh’s been pretty involved though and that’s been great. We like the show. It’s funny. It’s irreverent. If you know the movie and there are iconic moments you love, it’s all there. But it’s also filled with new stuff and new characters. A proper structure and bookends and all that great musical theater stuff.
CGM: I’d imagine the success of Book Of Mormon didn’t hurt when you were finally able to mount the play.
CB: Oh sure! If you like that show, you’ll like this. It’s also edgy, but it’s ridiculous. This is a really silly comedy and we try to make that clear right from the top. It’s crazy zany fun a la Trey Parker and we hope that Toronto digs it.
CGM: Yeah, I can’t wait. A VHS copy of Cannibal: The Musical was actually the first thing that I ever bought off of Amazon back in high school.
CGM: I’d imagine since we’re around the same age that you had a similar experience with South Park. It was kind of special for me since the show and their satire matured along with me as I grew up. So, all of those weird little projects that they did first were like holy grails.
CB: Totally. You have to discover Cannibal: The Musical. I remember watching the South Park movie for the first time and thinking, “This is the greatest thing that I’ve ever seen in my life.” I was a big musical theater guy and to see characters fart and sing at the same time just blew my mind. When we were writing the music for Evil Dead, we’d reference the South Park movie all the time. That was a big inspiration for us, so of course we went back and looked at everything they’d done before like Orgazmo and BASEketball. But Cannibal you really have to dig for. You have to dig through the Troma library somewhere. It’s not exactly a blockbuster. So to take it and turn it into a big stage musical has been amazing. We’re really pumped.
CGM: Was it intimidating for you to write new jokes and songs that would have to stand alongside material that Trey Parker wrote?
CB: Yeah, totally! It’s Trey Parker. He’s the best and we’re just a bunch of funky Canadian kids. You know, we think we’re pretty funny. But who knows? We’re trying to keep in his style and hopefully we’ve given it a life in a few areas. You know, we’re just going for it and anything they don’t like we’ll cut. We’re all above board, but we think we’ve come up with some nice new stuff to spice it up and then all of the old stuff you love is there too. So, it’s a nice blend.
CGM:Even the Japanese/Indian section?
CB: Oh yeah. (Laughs) Yep, we couldn’t lose that. That’s edgy and tricky, but it’s been getting great responses.
CGM: And after Evil Dead: The Musical, I’m assuming that you won’t be skimping on the gore in any way. What do you have the actors eating for human flesh?
CB: Well, I can’t tell you what it is. Come on. But obviously if you’re coming to a show called Cannibal: The Musical, there will be some gore. But it’s not all about that. The story is more the adventure of a group of friends traveling through the Rocky Mountains. But yeah, some people do get eaten. So you’re going to see some stuff. There are some effects and some cool ideas and I think people will dig it. I will say that we don’t spray blood on the audience like Evil Dead. But there are definitely some effects.
CGM: Did you get to tour around the world with Evil Dead: The Musical?
CB: Well, I didn’t go to the Korean show. My partner did and he loved it. But yeah, we were really fortunate that made it all over the world. Some of the shows we produced and some of the shows other people produced. It was really cool to see other people do your stuff. Hopefully Trey Parker feels the same way (Laughs). So, yeah I’ve seen the Vegas show, I even went to a high school production in Niagara Falls. They called me up and said they were doing it, so I went by. It was amazing. They had a chorus of 30 zombie kids.
CGM: So the principal didn’t shut that show down like the recent high school production?
CB: Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that. That was weird. The one that we saw rewrote it to take all the swears out. So the song “What The Fuck Was That” became “What The Heck Was That.” But it was perfect. We’re fine with that. It exciting just to see things that you worked on grow and have their own life like that.
CGM: Was there ever any traction with making a movie of Evil Dead: The Musical? I remember hearing something about that a while ago.
CB: There was some conversation and interest. But what happened was that Sam Raimi decided to do the remake and now they’re making a TV show. We still have dreams of making a movie, but at the moment it’s not happening. We’ve got some people interested and some excited producers. It started moving along, but then Sam said, “Sorry guys, we’re doing the remake!” So you know, what can you do? That’s his baby.
CGM: So he did get to see it then? Because I know Bruce Campbell was a big fan, but I wasn’t sure if Sam ever got around to seeing it.
CB: Well, it’s been out there for so long now that I don’t know if he’s ever actually been to the show. I know that he’s seen video of it because he got in touch with us about it, which was great. But, Bruce has seen it a zillion times and he’s very supportive. You know, I don’t want to take credit for reinvigorating their brand, but it couldn’t have hurt to have our musical out there.
CGM: Do you have any original, oddball horror musical projects that you’ve been working on as well?
CB: Nothing yet. So far I’m just piggy-backing off of other people’s amazing talent. (Laughs) We’ve done a few other things. I’ve written a couple films. My writing partner Trevor Martin and I wrote the movie A Little Bit Zombie for Anchor Bay. So we’ve done a couple of movies and we’ve actually got a television series in development right now that’s an original musical series. So, you know, we’ve got some original projects coming down the pipe. But in terms of a stage musical, all of the focus has been on Cannibal: The Musical right now.