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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Re-Animator: The Musical

I guess he just wasn't fresh enough.— Herbert West, describing a corpse
Re-Animator has come to life as many times as its undead cast. Originated by master horror writer H. P. Lovecraft (yes, it's his real name) in the early 1900s, it became a film cult classic in the hands of sly weird-maester Stuart Gordon in 1985 and — voila — it pops up again. It's directed by Gordon who also produced (with Dean Schramm), singing and dancing all the way to Mark Nutter's zany and elaborate words and music.

It has everything a horror show should have, including plastic wraps distributed by an overworked usherette to keep your clothes free from spurting blood and other fluids which we're assured are harmless. It opens and closes with a piercing scream. I still wish I knew what happened after the final curtain but that's not to be unless Gordon writes a sequel.

After a brief but curdling introductory scene, we're taken to a hospital where handsome Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna) tries in vain to revive a corpse while a chorus of doctors and nurses sings "He's dead!" until it finally sinks in. Dan's love, blonde beauty Megan (Rachel Avery) shows up and they're on their way to musical comedy bliss when interrupted by Herbert West (Graham Skipper). A young, handsome Mad Scientist, West is never without his glowing green serum which can bring the dead back to life — sort of.

Adding to the fun are Rachel's father Dean Halsey (George Wendt) who has a sly pomposity and Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin), a wonderfully sinister shrink with a big operatic voice. The stage is dim and the set is sparse but that's more than compensated by the marvelous costumes and make-up for selected undeaders, thanks to Laura Fine Hawkes.

Gordon saves the second act for mayhem where West unleashes his green serum on one and all. Dean Halsey and Dr. Hill are transformed by the serum, which doesn't work of course. Halsey is sort of a Frankenstine monster, redeemed by the love of a good daughter, and Hill winds up with his head in his stomach but he keeps singing in that glorious bass voice, and I still don't know how it's done.

As West, Skipper never loses his glaring mania. He has a final aria with a long ejecting apparatus which could be any number of things but is venomous and menacing, regardless, and spits at the audience who hastily pulled up their plastic coverlets. The Young Lovers are love in bloom until Dan is so beguiled by West that he follows his twisted path. Portly Dean Halsey is everything a pompous Dean should be until transformed by West into the creep we always knew lay beneath. Gordon reserves the most fun for Dr. Hill. He remains in nasty character throughout and sings gloriously from the pit of his stomach. The good are very good and the bad are very bad. though it isn't clear- whether this is Lovecraft or Gordon.

Gordo who co-wrote the book with Dennis Paoli and William J. Norris, directs all by himself but with exquisite timing and a prancing sense of fun.
Re-Animator: The Musical
Book: Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, William J. Norris. Music and lyrics: Mark Nutter. Adapted from the story by H.P. Lovecraft. Based on H.P. Lovecraft's film.
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Dean Halsey (George Wendt), Mace (Marlon Grace), Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin), Swiss Policeman (Brian Gillespie), Dr. Gruber (Mark Beltzman), Herbert West (Graham Skipper), Dr. Harrod (Cynthia Carle), Nurse (Liesel Hanson), Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna), Megan Halsey (Rachel Avery).
Musical Direction and Arrangements: Peter Adams
Choreography: Cynthia Carle
Sets: Laura Fine Hawkes
Lighting and Props: Jeff Rack
Costumes: Joe Kucharski
Special Effects: Tony Doublin, John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin, Greg McDougall
Where: Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Bl, Hollywood CA.
When: March 5-27, 2011
Reviewed March 5 by Laura Hitchcock.
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