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LA Theater: It’s Hard Not To Lose Your Head Over “Re-Animator – The Musical”!

 

Man, it’s been ages since I’ve been to a play.  Sad but true: I’ve been to concerts,  operas, dance performances, museums, galleries, festivals, and about everything else you can think of, but I think the last time I went to a play was when I saw I Love You – You’re Perfect – Now Change at the Denver Center for Performing Arts ten years ago.  Happily,  all that changed around the stroke of midnight Friday night.

I had the wickedly awesome opportunity to go see the wildly popular hit show Re-Animator – The Musical now showing at the Steve Allen Theater.   I could have gone to the “safe & sensible” 8:00 show, but, determined to truly savor life in this giant city where you CAN experience great theater after midnight, I opted to see a rare “Midnight Madness” cast benefit performance.  I grabbed my teenage night-owl-theater-tech-lighting-designer of a son and off we went.

The Steve Allen Theater is much smaller than I expected. In the world of theater, this is a good thing; small venues render big experiences.    Every seat makes you feel like you’re sitting in the front-row, the environment is incredibly laid-back and intimate and the acoustics are fantastic.  I sat in the very back row and could clearly see every facial expression and hear every single word, even over the din of an incredibly engaged and animated audience.  Dedicated to the late creative visionary Steve Allen (first host and creator of the original Tonight Show), the theater was established in the basement of the Los Angeles Center for Inquiry in 2002  as a “multidisciplinary stage that premiered bold new work, uncategorizable performance, and creative explorations of science and theology; a place where comedy, drama, horror, music, and the bizarre could share a stage with the basic foundational principles of the Center itself.”    No lieRe-Animator – The Musical was all that.

The original story was written by the infamous H.P. Lovecraft as  a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Years ago, legendary Producer/Director Stuart Gordon (creator of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and its sequel, along with a list of additional stage, film and writing credits you really should check out here) decided to adapt the story for film and, in 1985, it premiered at Cannes and took a Critics Award.  The film has since become a cult classic and Gordon’s name has been lovingly attached ever since.   Thankfully, Gordon brings his genius and an amazing creative team to the stage adaptation, delivering an unforgettable evening filled with completely hysterical, inappropriate humor and super-gory special effects.  Interestingly, “all those special effects are being delivered by the same folks who executed them for the 1985 movie: Tony Doublin, John Naulin, and John Beuchler. The “blood” flows so freely that the first few rows are designated as the “splash zone.”  (Quote courtesy of Lynn Tejada, Green Galactic PR) Yep.  If you sit in the first 3-4 rows, be prepared to be splattered with “brains”, slimed with “intestinal nastiness” and bathed in “blood”. The audience loved every bit of  it – and my son and I had a wonderful time watching them get slimed.

It was fantastic fun all the way  ’round.

Re-Animator – The Musical, is about a brilliant, young, ambitious and completely amoral doctor by the name of Herbert West (played by Graham Skipper) who has made a medical discovery that will allow him to bring the dead back to life.  West is desperate for a laboratory in which to further develop his green glowing mystery serum – and for  subjects to test it on – so he rents a basement room from an aspiring young medical student by the name of Dan Cain ( played by Chris L. McKenna).  Dan happens to be dating the Dean’s daughter, Megan Halsey (played by Rachel Avery), who immediately distrusts West and begs Dan not to become involved with him.  Alas, poor Dan is broke, and West is willing to pay cash for the space, and so the story unfolds.  West first involves Dan and Megan in his research by murdering and then re-animating their beloved cat – twice!   Dan, realizing the enormous potential of West’s research, agrees to smuggle him into the hospital morgue, which results in an orgy of bloody mayhem that includes the gory death and subsequent gorier re-animation of the Dean (played by Harry S. Murphy), the morally-corrupt and lecherous Dr. Hill (played by Jesse Merlin), and ultimately the rest of the morgue.  I’m not going to tell you anything more;  you have to go see it for yourself. (“Bwaaaa – haaa- ha – ha!”)

The entire cast was brilliant, though  in my opinion last night’s standout performances include those of Graham Skipper as Herbert West, Jesse Merlin as Dr. Hill, Chris L McKenna as Dan Cain, and Cynthia Carle as Dr. Harrod.  The call-outs are in no way meant to slight any of the other performers in any way; it’s just that the performances of those listed were charged with an unwavering energy and overall magic that made me swear I wouldn’t let another ten years go by before attending another live production.  Thanks, guys.

And to everyone out there who might be “turned off” by the fact that this version of “Re-Animator” is, indeed, The Musical”, let me assure you:  the music isn’t “sappy” or “girly” or anything else you might wish to label it- it actually adds an incredible feeling of intellectual depth and dimension to the overall production – so much so that I can’t imagine the production without it.  Composer/Lyricist Mark Nutter, along with Music Director/Sound Designer/Arranger Peter Adams and librettists Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon and William J. Norris delivered consistently humorous and completely engaging dialogue packed with innuendo and satire.  (BTW – librettists are, when reduced to their most basic role, the folks who tie all the primary songs together with song-based script, essentially filling in all the ‘blank spaces’ with script that enhances and flows with the music and provides overall stage direction.   Tough role – in this case, masterfully rendered…)

I know lots of you were originally thinking I’m a crazy woman to be out accompanied only by my teenage son after midnight in Los Angeles.  While I was a little worried about being able to find parking close to the venue, it was a non-issue.  I parked for free in the small, well-lit lot on the premises of the Center For Inquiry/Steve Allen Theater; even if that had been full, there was ample parking along the streets and even in a reasonably-priced lot a couple of blocks up the street.  And, as I suspected, half of Los Angeles is out after midnight;  the scene is vibrant, the traffic is the same as always, and as usual, you just have to have your city sensibilities about you (i.e., keep your eyes open, have your keys in your hand, and don’t park in any dark alleys.  Duh.).  Don’t let anything get in your way;  go see this.  Have fun.

 

“RE-ANIMATOR” NEWS: EXTENDED THRU AUGUST 14th BY POPULAR DEMAND! PLUS MIDNIGHT CAST BENEFIT SHOWS ON FRI. JUNE 24th, JULY 1st, & JULY 8th!”

Here’s the details:

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Re-Animator™ – The Musical, the horror-comedy based on the 1985 cult movie hit and earlier H.P. Lovecraft story, has extended its run due to popular demand through Sunday, August 14, 2011 at the Steve Allen Theater.  The new performance schedule for this funny, bloody and tuneful production includes three shows per weekend:  Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8:00pm.  Additionally, the production that refuses to die will hold three special Midnight Madness shows with opening bands on Friday, June 24th, Friday, July 1st, and Friday, July 8th. Midnight Madness shows cost $15 and doors open at 10:45pm for the all ages preshow. Bands to be announced on the Re-Animator site. Ticket prices for 8:00pm shows are $30 for general admission, $15 for students (with ID) as well as all Center for Inquiry members.  The Steve Allen Theater is located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027.  For theater information please call 323-666-4268 or visit http://steveallentheater.com.  For ticket purchases only please call 800-595-4849.  For more information on the musical please visit http://www.re-animatorthemusical.com.  Online tickets can be purchased through the Re-Animator or venue web sites.

“Re-Animator, the Musical is unexpected. This outlandish adaptation of the 1985 cult classic should have fans storming the Steve Allen Theater… a bloody good time.” – David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times

 

Enjoy!


Posted June 26th, 2011.

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