Following an award-winning run in Los Angeles, Re-Animator The Musical, playing at the PTC Space, has arrived in New York -- gross-out special effects, splatter zone and all. And while this tongue-in-cheek tuner doesn't break any new ground, it inspires more than its share of chuckles and delighted squeals of mock horror.
Based on H.P. Lovecraft's short stories and the cult film it inspired, Re-Animator, with book by Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon and William J. Norris, transports audiences to a fictional college where a new student, Herbert West (the richly voiced Graham Skipper), discovers a formula for bringing the dead back to life. Ultimately his serum -- ludicrously misused by both its inventor and those around him -- results in hordes of zombies stalking the campus.
It's dopey fun that's accompanied by a score from Mark Nutter that manages to be a campy delight in its own right. He has fused the declamatory vocabularies of opera and operetta with contemporary musical theater sounds, outfitting the diverse tunes with some genuinely surprising funny lyrics.
Director Stuart Gordon's staging serves the nonsensical material up with zealous flair, and he has elicited a host of memorable performances from the company, particularly from Skipper -- who seems to channel Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Morse, and Alan Rickman -- and Jesse Merlin, who brings blisteringly funny creepy lecherousness to his turn as a faculty member with a penchant for plagiarizing other scientists' work.
Television favorite George Wendt appears to be savoring the chance to just act goofy as the college dean who's appalled by West's experiments, while Chris L. McKenna and Rachel Avery, as the young couple whose world and relationship is rocked by the mayhem, deliver decidedly droll turns.
Ultimately, though, it won't be the performances, songs or even story that audiences will remember, but rather the superb work of Tony Doublin, John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin and Greg McDougall, who created the simultaneously cheesy and handsomely crafted special effects for this zany tuner.
-- Andy Propst