Re-Animator - The Musical (2011)
Directed by Stuart Gordon
I’ve never been a fan of musical theatre, but when it comes to a Stuart Gordon stage production, I’m first in line. Hot on the heels of Nevermore – the mind-blowing “Jeffrey Combs-Edgar Allan Poe” one-man show – Gordon has returned to theatre with something none of us saw coming: a Re-Animator musical. And this time he’s come to paint the stage red!
Not unlike Evil Dead: The Musical, which became a huge off-Broadway hit, Gordon’s adaptation is a slap-happy, gore-soaked tribute to a cult classic that makes for the perfect live show. Reteaming with Re-Animator scribe Dennis Paoli and writer William J. Morris, he’s concocted a fast-paced two hours of tunes, gags, and blood geysers that sent this writer into fits of uncontrollable laughter.
The musical numbers by Mark Nutter are all catchy and perfectly woven into the script. Instead of hamming it up like most modern musical parodies, Nutter’s witty compositions lean towards the classical side, making Re-Animator like a Gilbert and Sullivan show gone horribly wrong. The script sticks very close to the film’s original screenplay with a lot of classic lines worked into the music (hearing West sing “cat dead/details later” brought the house down).
Likewise, all the same grotesque gags unfold right in front of you courtesy of John Carl Buechler’s make-up effects. The first two rows were designated “splash zones”, and the usher handed out plastic garbage bags – but by the time the show ended, it’s fair to say that nearly half the auditorium got hit with splatter. Not since my last GWAR show have I been hit with this much red stuff! Given the limited space and single backdrop, the chaos Gordon unleashes on stage is nothing short of staggering, and everyone involved looks like they’re having the time of their lives. There are even little flourishes and moments that surpass the source material in terms of wild inventiveness.
The cast is all-around stellar: Stepping into the role of Herbert West is Graham Skipper, who does an amazing job channeling Jeffrey Combs’ manic, paranoid performance (with an added bit of Rainn Wilson thrown in for good measure). Chris McKenna and George Wendt from Gordon’s King of the Ants reunite on stage, perfectly filling the roles of Dan Cain and Dean Halsey, respectively, while the gorgeous Rachel Avery shows her vocal chops – both in song and screams – as Meg. But the most side-splitting moments belong to Jesse Merlin, who dons a David Gale wig as West’s antagonist, Dr Hill. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a decapitated head sing, and his interactions with Skipper are pure comedy gold.
The entire cast and crew have clearly given it their all, and as a result Re-Animator: The Musical doesn’t feel like a mere gimmick. This is a wickedly entertaining night that every fan must experience!
Re-Animator: The Musical is playing now through March 27th at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. Click here to get your tickets.
5 out of 5
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