by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

“I guess he just wasn’t fresh enough.”

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Ken Hudson Campbell, Jesse Merlin. Photo Credit: Thomas Hargis.

This show should come with a warning label or at the very least its own wives tale…like something your mother would say to you…

“You should never hang out with a mad scientist.  Hanging out with a mad scientist will make you mad! Mad I say! Absolutely mad!!!!  Now go to your room!”

What an incredible surprise.  I’m not saying I didn’t go into this with reservations.  I’m not a horror buff or die-hard fan.  And Re-Animator has done nothing to change my mind.  I say this with pure delight.  Here’s why:

Audience participation seems to be the theme for the several freak shows I’ve seen so far this year. Local supermarkets must be making a fortune in trash bag sales.  Passing around entrails, squirts of blood, spitting at the first 5 rows, singling out theater goers for hemoglobin shock…up until now, there have been no clear winners in the contest for mash-up plasma moments. Most have been rather meek, humble and discretionary.

Revival of the award-winning musical hit of Re-Animator The Musical, at the Steve Allen Theater however, has taken gore to a level of excellence, bar none, literally hurling barely unidentifiable liquids into the audience throughout the performance. I started to wonder if I had suddenly stepped into an alternate Wet & Wild universe. It was total chaotic insanity … in operetta … with a love story!

So..why …oh why…do guys never listen?  The eternal question that women seem to ask themselves especially when attempting to bail out the man they love from an obviously bad situation.

Re-Animator
Jessica Howell and Darren Ritchie. Photo Credit: Thomas Hargis

Herbert West, a brilliant young medical student, played [awesomely!] by a creepy and borderline nerdy Graham Skipper has created a glowing green serum that can bring the dead back to life. What should be a medical breakthrough results in hideous monstrosities and ghastly consequences.  It’s also terribly funny and just the thing for a messy Halloween, fright night, comical, cult experience.

Graham Skipper, who won a Best New Performer Award at the New York Musical Theater Festival, returns as the demented young genius.  Operatic Jesse Merlin, is back as Dr. Carl Hill who loses his head for Meg, the dean’s beautiful daughter, only to actually lose it at the hands of Herbert West. But thanks to the glowing re-agent, Dr. Hill is still able to take his curtain call with his head tucked underneath his arm.

Also returning from the original cast are Cynthia Carle, Brian Gillespie, Marlon Grace, and Liesel Hanson playing an assortment of doctors, nurses and rampaging zombies. And Ken Hudson Campbell, familiar to many for saving the world with Bruce Willis in Armageddon, plays the doomed Dean of the medical school whom West also transforms into a mindless zombie.

But it’s Darren Ritchie (veteran of five Broadway shows, including Dracula and Little Shop of Horrors) as Dan Cain, the handsome young medical student (and West’s hapless roommate) in love with the dean’s daughter, now played by the Jessica Howell, who bring the Ken and Barbie thriller-style love-story portion, going head to [severed] head with Jesse Merlin, to its re-mounted, maddening climax (ahem)…full throttle.

The effects were flawless, so was the timing throughout this entire production by the whole cast.  The music is hilarious, spunky and bourgeois silly. You’ll love the creepy sets, the moldering costumes and the cadaverous lighting. Everything about this show is a gushing, audience pleasing hit!  You’ll be sorry to miss this mayhem if you do!

Re-AnimatorRe-Animator™ the Musical was developed and premiered at the Steve Allen Theater under the artistic direction of Amit Itelman who also founded Trepany House.

Book by Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon and William J. Norris
Music and lyrics by Mark Nutter
Adapted from the story by H.P. Lovecraft
Based on the film H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator produced by Brian Yuzna.
Musical director: Peter Adams
Choreography by Cynthia Carle
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Produced by Dean Schramm and Stuart Gordon
Presented by The Schramm Group LLC and Red Hen Productions in association with Trepany House under the Artistic Direction of Amit Itelman.

 Photo (above) by Thomas Harris: Ken Hudson Campbell, Jesse Merlin. 

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