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Re-Animator The Musical

This adaptation of the cult horror film is both disgusting and entertaining.

By Los Angeles
Rachel Avery, George Wendt and Jesse Merlin
in Re-Animator The Musical
(© Thomas Hargis)
Rachel Avery, George Wendt and Jesse Merlin
in Re-Animator The Musical
(© Thomas Hargis)
You will spend half the time watching Re-Animator The Musical, now at the Hayworth Theatre, convincing yourself that you're not seeing what your brain is computing and the other half expecting to be hit by lightning for witnessing such blasphemy.

In this highly entertaining musical, based on the cult-classic 1980s horror film, limbs are bitten off, dismembered bodies carry their own heads in their hands, and Norm Peterson from Cheers wears a wig. These are images that will haunt you forever.

The work is set at a fictitious college where Herbert West, a deranged medical genius (Graham Skipper), discovers the formula for human reanimation. His breakthrough horrifies the current dean (George Wendt), excites the plagiaristic professor (Jesse Merlin), and rips apart the all-American couple (Chris L McKenna and Rachel Avery), who are put through the ringer.

The score by Mark Nutter is conversational in nature, and if none of the melodies are going to be truly memorable, they're chipper. The songs cleverly borrow from many genres, ranging from the tango to the operettas of Victor Herbert. Better still, Nutter's lyrics are witty and filled with imaginative rhymes.

The cast is game for the horrific antics. With his eyes about to pop out of his head and a manic energy, Skipper is riotous as the insane doctor. Matching him quirk by quirk, Merlin is deliriously creepy. And Wendt brings his spot-on comic timing to the show -- even as he transforms into both a bloody zombie and a Swiss woman.

Avery plays Meg with earnestness and wholesomeness, making the scene between her and Dr. Hill's head all the more perverse. McKenna proves to be a charming leading man -- dashing and romantic -- but he is quick to jump into the slime-filled pool of psychosis and gore.

The real stars of the piece, however, are the effects of Tom Devlin, Tony Doublin and John Buechler. Intestines unravel, bodies carry their own heads, zombies have saws crammed through their stomachs, and monsters lose hands, legs, ears, fingers, eyes.

And blood squirts everywhere! The first three rows of the audience are given makeshift raincoats, but as far back as row six, my shirt was covered in red droplets, even after ducking under my seat several times.


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