We like Lovecraft here at Theater For Nerds, and are happy to see his works adapted for the stage in any way, be it dead serious, or… not particularly serious. The New York Music Theater Festival brought us a goofy interpretation of a classic Lovecraft tale this week with Re-Animator: The Musical.
It’s an adaptation of the 1985 film, not the original Lovecraft story, and is directed by Stuart Gordon who also directed the movie. Adding to its authenticity is that Gordon and the other co-writers of the film are credited with the book to this musical adaptation which uses a good deal of dialog straight from the film.
It follows the plot of the movie so closely that people who have seen it aren’t in for many surprises. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Re-Animator is about a mad genius named Herbert West (Played here by Graham Skipper) who creates a serum that can bring the dead back to life… sorta. Mostly it just transforms them into mindless raging monsters.
West is mocked by the medical community, but gains the friendship of Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna who movie-goers might remember from Stuart Gordon’s King of the Ants). West also runs afoul of the unscrupulous scientist Dr. Hill who is competing with Dan for the affections of the lovely Megan.
It features George Wendt as Megan’s father, Dean Halsey. Yes, THAT George Wendt who also does a few scenes as a singing, dancing zombie. That alone might be worth the price of admission for some people.
Zombie movie fans know that the sort of science that West is up to never ends well, and his “Re-agent” has a few kinks to be worked out. In the original film this was used for both horrific and humorous effect. However in this musical parody the zombies and gore are pure comedy.
The mere fact that this version of Re-Animator is a musical at all takes care of a lot of the transition to an all out comedy. Most of the gruesome moments from the movie get turned into musical numbers and the over-the-top gore just gets sillier when depicted live. The fact that some of the characters are zombified is a ready source of comedic material as these inarticulate monsters groan off-key and howl unintelligible lyrics during duets.
The music and lyrics are by Mark Nutter who helped create the musical comedy The Bicycle Men. Musical theater fans should be familiar with gruesome musicals like Sweeney Todd. Unfortunately a lot of the music in Re-Animator sounds quite familiar to the score from Sweeney. There are also a couple of generic-sounding songs like a waltz and a tango plus a re-mix of the theme song from the Re-Animator movie.
While the music isn’t going to stick in the audience’s head after the show, many of the visual gags and splatter moments will. In fact, the first four rows are designated as the “Splatter Zone” where the most daring patrons can sit and be splashed with blood during the many scenes of dismemberment and beheading, or find themselves victims of audience interaction with the blood-soaked cast (Water-proof ponchos provided).
There a numerous clever visual effects used to create the zombies, and fans of the movie will be pleased with the way that Dr. Hill’s fate is depicted live on stage. There is also a zombified cat that steals several scenes. Poor Rufus will never do the tango again…
Many cast members are returning to these roles after the West Coast productions of the show, and they have their roles down, especially Graham Skipper as the creepy nerd West.
True musical enthusiasts aren’t likely to find much meat in Re-Animator: The Musical, but zombie lovers will probably find something to sink their teeth into with this bloody, silly spectacle.
As of this writing, there is a single performance left of the show, Sunday the 22nd at 9:00 pm, however Re-Animator The Musical will also be produced in August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.