There is no excuse for not knowing what you are getting into when watching Re-Animator The Musical. It’s based on the Horror Comedy movie Re-Animator, a cult classic. If the title doesn’t tip the audience off as to what is in store, the “splatter zone” and the ponchos should warn you long before the show begins.
With the ground rules firmly in place, Re-Animator The Musical provides great goofy fun along with faux gore aplenty. Re-Animator is the story of good guy Dan Cain and his roommate, the slightly unhinged and defiantly obsessed Herbert West. Dan is a med student coming to grips with the reality that he can’t save all lives. West is a med student working to upend that reality with a green goo that re-animates dead tissue – and brings the dead to life.
|Graham Skipper mid Re-Animation|
For this formula to work, the cast needs to walk a fine line. Graham Skipper as Herbert West is frenetically fantastic as the manic student mad-scientist. He is out to revolutionize the world and, by happy coincidence, humiliate Dr. Carl Hill. Dr. Hill (played by Jesse Merlin) plagiarized the young West’s Swiss mentor, and has plans to do the same thing to Herbert. Mr. Skipper hams up the proceedings with wild abandon - bringing audience along with him.
But for good camp to work, there must be the innocents. In Re-Animator The Musical, those innocents are Dan and Megan. They are love struck sweethearts in Medical school, alternate repelled and seduced by Herbert West’s breakthrough. Rachel Avery plays the role of Megan sweetly, with just enough backbone poking through her doe-eyed wonder to be believable. It helps that Ms. Aveyr has a lovely voice and a fresh presence. But it is Chris L. McKenna as Dan Cain that steals much of the show. Mr. McKenna plays him as a cross between Dudley Do-Right and Florence Nightingale, with a dumb jock body.
Misters McKenna and Skipper combine to make Dan and Herbert a great team.
George Wendt plays Dean Halsey, Megan’s Father, bringing a little sit-com star power to the proceedings – he nails it in the opening scene as an excitable Swiss Nurse. I know a big guy in bad drag was stale back when William Frawley did it in I Love Lucy, but it sets the tone perfectly.
|Chris L McKenna and Rachel Avery|
Re-Animator is part of the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF.ORG), on the way to play at the Edinburgh Fringe. Mark Nutter brings a giddy playfulness to the music and lyrics, and Stuart Gordon does a fine job of direction.
Playwrights: Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon & William J. Norris
Music & Lyrics: Mark Nutter
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: George Wendt, Marlon Grace, Jesse Merlin, Brian Gillespie, Mark Beltzman, Graham Skipper, Cynthia Carle, Liesel Hanson, Tyler Milliron, Chris. L. McKenna, Rachel Avery