“Evil Dead the Musical" originally launched its Las Vegas iteration in October of 2011 at the Onyx theater to an audience that spanned from fans of the cult horror classic trilogy to tourists that had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Since then, the musical erupted into a local legend and it seems like no matter where you look, there it is. At 2013’s LVL UP video gaming expo, the cast set up a booth to satiate the needs of fan photo-ops while just recently, it was announced that the scenic Mount Charleston teamed up with the bloody show to provide a real life “Cabin in the Woods” experience, complete with an “The Evil Dead” screening and snippets from the musical.
By this point, we know the show; we know Ash, Linda, Scotty, Shelly, Annie, and Cheryl. Evil Dead the Musical is no longer the mystery that it once was; but what about those that bring the show to life? What of Sirc Michaels, the deranged mind behind the performance, or Benjamin Stobber, the man that brings Ashley “Ash” Williams to life on stage? Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with several cast members along with the man behind the Las Vegas production to find out what it’s like to perform in the hottest show on the Las Vegas Strip.
During a three hour time span, I found myself diving into the lives of four different members from the “Evil Dead the Musical” cast. The energetic Fake Shemp, Kolton Rostron, the more timid yet passionate Lorie Palkow, the ever-so motivational Benjamin Stobber, and the deadite that leads them all, Sirc Michaels, all had their own things to say about the show, how they started, what the show has done for them, and where they aim to go from here.
Kolton Rostron (Fake Shemp / “Scotty” Understudy)
How one goes about getting involved in such a show as “Evil Dead the Musical” differs from person to person. While some join in just for the acting experience, one such cast member, Fake Shemp and Scotty understudy, Kolton Rostron, was really attracted to the musical itself. After stints in high school that included “A Midsummer Nights Dream”, “Peter Pan”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and numerous self-reproductions of some of the show’s most memorable scenes, Kolton found himself joining the original Las Vegas ensemble cast of “Evil Dead’s” initial run in 2011. Despite the show’s return the follow January, Kolton escaped Nevada to better his education at Arizona State University. “I went to ASU for a semester, just because I’m young and kind of wanted to explore what I could do,” Kolton explains of his brief departure. Despite adding “Hairspray” to his bibliography at ASU, it wasn’t long before the deadite in him brought him back to Nevada and, subsequently, back into the cast of the musical.
Kolton’s enthusiasm for both himself and acting was quite apparent throughout the interview, with the young actor touching on a certain self-realization that most would typically deny about themselves. “I have an older brother and a younger sister... so, growing up I had this natural tendency to want more attention... and that kind of transpired into me getting into theater and being on stage because I want everyone to be looking at me,” Kolton humors. Despite his love of attention, Kolton didn’t have the constant need to thrive as the focal character. “I was the dad in ‘Pajama Game’, which was really cool because when you’re an ensemble member, you have to do all the dances but most of the time you’re not even seen. For this part, I was only in one dance.” Things took an unexpected turn when this one ensemble dance had Kolton front and center in a solo all his own.
Regardless of his role in a musical based off of a popular horror-infused film trilogy, Kolton finds himself on the fence of the genre itself. “There are some horror movies that know they’re ridiculous, like Black Sheep. I had a good time watching that; and I think that’s important about a movie, is that it’s enjoyable to watch, even if it’s a horror movie. I’m usually not into the gory, unless it has a good plot. If it’s gore for the sake of gore, I’m not interested.”
When asked what he has to say to those that may not have seen the show, Kolton has this to say, “Listen, follow your hearts, because your hearts will lead you to this show; and you will leave with you and your heart happy.”
Ben Stobber (Ashley “Ash” Williams)
Lead player, Benjamin Stobber, is best known for his role as Ashley “Ash” Williams in the Sirc Michaels’ production, but spends his days behind the desk as a concierge to an MGM property on the Strip. Acting like a theatrical Clark Kent, Benjamin finds himself shifting from mild mannered employee by day to demon-slaying badass at night. Despite the fluid shift every Friday and Saturday, fitting into the lead role was far from Benjamin’s original plan. “I auditioned for Scotty, Ash’s best friend, reading aside actor Mickey Rourke, who auditioned for Ash,” Benjamin reminisces, “Sirc had to switch it around when I found that Scotty uses a lot of foul words and, I guess as an actor, I wasn’t comfortable with some of the words and found myself sticking to my roots.” So what challenges laid ahead when Benjamin finally got the call that he had been cast as Ash? “I researched. I, of course, re-watched the movies, I read the comic books to get a better feel for the further adventures. It kind of gave me more of an idea of his cocky persona.” The extensive research proved to pay off as fans and audience members often clamber for the actor’s iteration of the beloved character.
Ash may have been an established character, but that didn’t stop Benjamin from extending the character from beyond what’s seen on screen. “The greatest thing, too, with this role that I didn’t expect is the chance to go out to these promotional events and really further expand on his character and his personality. I didn’t want to do an exact replicated, duplicate version of Ash; I wanted to throw in my own spin.” One notable liberty Benjamin took with the character? “I kind of made Ash an ‘ass’ man. That was never in the script, but it just kind of fell into place.”
This is far from Benjamin’s first run at a difficult role, though, as he had also been a part of the Onyx Theater’s production of “Naked Boys Singing”. As the title suggests, the entire cast consists of completely nude male performers that square off against original musical numbers and the very predominant notion that they are in the buff in front of hundreds. Along with his role as Brad in “Rocky Horror Show”, Benjamin had no qualms tackling both difficult performances.
Luckily, for Benjamin, a love for horror films was not on Sirc Michael’s “must have” list when casting Ash. Though his enjoyment of “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” helped his portrayal of Ash, his excitement for the “Evil Dead” remake is little more than a flickering flame. “I’m of course excited to see a re-imagining of ‘The Evil Dead’ film; am I a fan of the original? No. I know this one is going straight for the jugular... but honestly, I’m not a big fan of [scary movies] anymore.”
To close, Benjamin’s inspirational side shown through, leaving this final thought to all. “If you feel in your heart that you have a show or product or experience that you feel very confident in, stand by your confidence and see to it to the end.”
For more from the "Evil Dead the Musical" cast, check out part two of this exclusive interview.