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Re-Animator: The Musical Reviewed!
Reanimator: The Musical shouldn’t work. I mean, how exactly does one take a classic horror film and turn it into a comedic stage show with catchy tunes? It should defy the laws of physics somehow – sort of like the subject matter itself. And yet, the creative forces behind this production have fashioned an astounding success.
What’s more, it should please both fans of the original film as well as newcomers to the material. I fall into the former category and decided to attend the show with a compatriot – let’s call her Vixenvectrex. She is not a fan of gory horror films, to say the least. But, the comedy, amusing songs (my hat’s off to Mark Nutter who managed to craft a fun tune about a basement) and overall energy of the show won her over.
Stuart Gordon directed both the play and the original film. I can only guess that his intimate knowledge of the subject matter gave him insight into just how far the material could be stretched. To say the show was superbly cast would be a gross (no pun intended) understatement. I was skeptical at first, especially since I’m a big fan of Jeffrey Combs who played Herbert West in the original film. (Not only was he brilliant in that, but I think his work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a highlight of the series.)
Graham Skipper assumes the role of Herbert West in the stage version but doesn’t attempt to duplicate Mr. Combs in the role. Instead, he brings his own unique energy and is a highlight of the production. He’s in good company. Other members of the cast are equally well-suited to their roles. Rachel Avery is stunning as Meg and Chris L. McKenna exudes charm and determination as the likable Dan. My personal favorite was Jesse Merlin as Dr. Carl Hill who was creepy, repulsive, and eminently watchable in every scene – whether his head was attached to his body or not.
The staging of the play is both deceptively simple and incredibly complex. All the action takes place using the same backdrop of a single door – which is repurposed in each scene. My compatriot and I were both blown away at the technical aspects of the production. The special effects are simply amazing – and I’m still puzzling out how some of the stunts were performed. And, while many scenes feature literal fountains of blood, it is campy enough to be inoffensive to most. Not that I’m suggesting the show for children!
Okay, I’m gushing as much as the severed heads in the play. Honestly, I enjoy writing the occasional negative review. But the only negative thing I can say about this production is that it is scheduled to end all too soon. Get yourself to Los Angeles and the Steve Allen theater to check out Reanimator: The Musical.
Sit in the “splash zone” which should be more aptly called the “drench zone.” You’ll be glad you did.”