The special effects by Tony Doublin, John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin & Greg McDougall are the highlight in this uneven, gore filled, newish musical (It’s been running in LA for a while where it has won multiple awards including “Best Blood Effects” and is headed to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) are truly awe inspiring and if you do not want to be splashed by fake blood, vomit and whatever it is that fills the intestines then you better not sit in the “splash zone” where plastic ponchos are offered to protect in the first four rows at PTC Performance Space where RE-ANIMATOR the musical is playing as part of the NYMF.
It’s based on the 1985 B-cult horror “slash” comedy film – “H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator” that Stuart Gordon directed. Mr. Gordon now shares billing as co-writer of the book of this musical adaptation with Dennis Paoli and William J. Norris and is its director and co-producer. Eerie music and some witty lyrics have been supplied by Mark Nutter, adding some operatic overtones to the proceedings with a nod and a wink or ten to Zombies, a severed head singing, a tango and a finale that sounds very much like “My Way”.
THE EVIL DEAD and THE TOXIC AVENGER, two similar musicals in the same genre, did it better their way. At ninety minutes without intermission RE-ANIMATOR takes a time for it to really take off. The scenes seem truncated and rarely pay off with the many blackouts that probably work better cinematically than on stage.
No songs are listed. Something that really irks me. However, with this show it makes sense as it is almost sung-through sounding at times like a riff on Gilbert and Sullivan, with some jazz and Philip Glass thrown in for good measure. The music suits the production and is there to support the many wonderful aforementioned “special effects”.
The cast of eleven is uniformly excellent. Herbert West (a maniacal Graham Skipper) is a medical school nerd who has discovered a glowing green serum that can bring the dead back to life – as first tested on the cat Rufus who belongs to Megan (Rachel Avery) who is the girlfriend of Dan (Chris L. McKenna) and is the daughter of Dean Halsey (George Wendt from “Cheers”). West moves into Dan’s basement where he “experiments”.
Instructor Dr. Hill (a superb Jesse Merlin) is the spookiest character on stage. He wants the formula and Megan. One of the most outlandish scenes towards the end of the show has him carrying his head, singing and attempting to devour Megan who is strapped onto a gurney. It has to be seen to be believed and enjoyed.
Mr. Wendt only blossoms after he has had a lobotomy. And then he gets to shine.
If blood and guts and gore are your thing by all means check into RE-ANIMATOR the musical. The special effects really are astonishing, gruesome and very funny.
Photos: Thomas Hargis
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