My grandmother used to say, "Laughter is good for what ails ye." This belief was later endorsed by a surgeon who prescribed comedies for me to watch after surgery and claimed that I was able to leave the hospital faster because I laughed a lot. I am healthier to today because I had a good dose of laughter last night.
Re-Animator - The Musical now playing at the Steve Allen Theatre is "good for ails ye." From the eye popping opening scene to the end that begins again, laughter is the medicine. Fabulous music coupled with an incredibly witty libretto, over the top performances, special effects, magic, and outrageous costumes; and let's not leave out the full house in attendance- 50% had seen the show before- who were ready to have a "really good time" all made for an unforgettable evening.
The musical is based on the cult film "H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator." I've never seen the film, but it was described to me by the gentleman on my right: "Do you like horror films? You know, with a lot of gore? No? Then you don't want to see it." The woman to our left had seen the film after she saw the musical and did not like the film at all: "Extreme gore, not at all to my taste." My conclusion then is, that seeing the film is not necessary to enjoying the musical even though the film and the stage play are both directed by Stuart Gordon with special effects provided by the same team that did them for the movie: Tony Doublin, John Naulin, and John Beuchler.
Every member of the cast took multiple roles and all performances were entertaining to the max. "Trust me" Jesse Merlin was unforgettable as seedy Dr. Hill, who could belt out his songs with or without his head attached to his body. "How cool" Ken Hudson Campbell was endearing as Dean "Daddy" Husley and extremely out there in la-la land as a Re-Animated. "She's dead, Dan" Doctor and Nurse Cythia Carle and Liesel Hanson stole a laugh every time they made an entrance. "I gave life (my way)" Graham Skipper as Herbert West brought eyes that rivaled Steve Buscemi to his over-the-top performance. Jessica Howell, the female romantic lead "I want an expensive wedding" Megan Halsey, played the sweet young thing with Gracie Allen innocence. Opposite her, Darren Ritchie as "Herbert West brought a cat back to life" Dan Cain played every absurd moment with uncanny believability. "I love my job" Marlon Grace as Mace was highly entertaining, but as a RE-animate he was beyond description. (He also had unbelievably fast costume changes.) Brian Gillespie pushed his way through many scenes as the janitor but I am guessing he also doubles as the headless Dr. Hill. The door was character in and of itself. I'm not sure whether it was a special effect or set design but it was brilliantly employed.
Reserve your tickets, now. The show runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday through November 2 at the Steve Allen Theater. Patrons were showing up as early as 4 pm for an 8 pm show so as to get in the splash zone and shows have been sold out.
Re-Animator - The Musical is presented by The Schram Group LLC and Red hen Productions in association with Trepany House. Tickets: http://www.trepanyhouse.org/
Photos: Credit: Thomas Hargis
- Graham Skipper (holding syringe) and Jesse Merlin.
- Marlon Grace (l.), Darren Ritchie.
- Ken Hudson Campbell (l.), Jesse Merlin
- Jessica Howell and Darren Ritchie.
By Suzanne Birrell