It's not every actor who gets to perform with a chainsaw attached to one wrist. Check out Ryan Ward's work as Ash, the one guy not turned into a demon in Evil Dead: The Musical, based on the cult horror films by Sam Raimi. You probably know the story -- Ash and his friends find a magical book in a deserted cabin, unleash demons and have to fight for their lives. Ward's been with the musical since it began life here in Toronto before travelling to Montreal and then off-Broadway. As in the films, the show has lots of gore but also lots of laughs, mostly from the silly, over-the-top singing that accompanies the slaughter. Ward, who first impressed us in his Fringe solo Nocturnal Musical and various Ryerson productions, brings the show back home for a run at the Diesel Playhouse.
Do you feel you have to copy the movie's Ash?
I've watched the films dozens of times, and while I try to make the role my own in a physical-comedy way, some things have to be the same. When I say "groovy," I've got to cock my eyebrow.
Has Raimi seen the stage show?
No, but the original Ash, Bruce Campbell, and producer Rob Tapert have. Raimi's been doing the Spider-Man movies, and I think he's a little Evil Deaded out.
Do you get lots of repeat customers?
Yes, there were Dead-ites who came 20 times in New York and loved sitting in the front rows, where they got covered with gore.
Did the show change when it went to New York?
The design is fancier, and we've worked with a world-class fight choreographer for the climactic zombie battle. It's also more technologically advanced, with the blood more thought out and better placed. We know where it has to go to saturate the first two rows evenly; otherwise, people would be disappointed.
What have you learned about killing demons?
Shoot 'em in the head if you can, but they still may come back to life. It's even better to do a lot of calisthenics, because then you can outrun them.
What's it like to have one hand and one chainsaw, since you have to chop off your other hand when it turns evil?
It takes getting used to, especially because the chainsaw unbalances you when you're doing physical stuff onstage. I've learned to handle it, but there are also a few times I get to cheat.
How do you react to all the blood in the show?
It doesn't faze me, but I have to admit that once we had a promotional blood drive and I felt kind of antsy. I guess I'm squeamish when it's my own blood that's being taken.
And after this run?
Less blood. I'm making a feature called Sunshine, about a guy with Tourette's syndrome, and I also hope to start up a theatre company devoted to contemporary works.