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Re-Animator The Musical: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

That the front few rows are designated a ‘splatter zone’, with audience members positioned on tarpaulin and given waterproof ponchos to protect from the sloshing bodily fluids, should give an idea of the sensibilities of Re-Animator: The Musical.

This is basically a ghost train for grown-ups, with shlocky horror effects, big camp performances and the odd neat visual effect. The plot, the writing and  the musical numbers are pedestrian; just a device to get to the next bit of fake blood.

It’s based on the cult 1985 VHS hit – which in turn was based on an HP Lovecraft story – about a deranged medical student who discovers a serum that can bring the dead back to life … although the consequences are rather unpleasant. The lesson that you should really be careful in reviving long-dead corpses seems to be lost on Stuart Gordon, the director of the film who’s behind this musical remake.

After a shock opening, the action is rather slow to get going, as we established the academic feud between Dr Carl Hill and Herbert West, which drives the later to create his powerful potion. Graham Skipper is fine in this role, evolving from inscrutably intense to manically obsessed, but the rest of the cast tend towards loud rather than engaging, as I’m sure they’ve been instructed.

George Wendt, aka Norm from Cheers, is the big name to draw people in, but he’s wasted in the two-dimensional role of the college dean. He gets to ham it up once he becomes a zombie – the fate of most of the cast, of course – but he’s underused.

The brash showboating performances can’t cover the fact we don’t actually care for the characters, or find much amusing in the blunt script. When your only concern is where the next pint of fake blood is coming from, it can’t be a great theatrical experience – and indeed Re-Animator: The Musical misses all the originality, unpredictable turns, and deliciously strange characters that made Rocky Horror such a smash.

There are a few neat touches, many of which are encapsulated in the gruesome chorus line that includes a woman killed by a ukulele up the backside – surely only a matter of time before that becomes a reality at the Fringe. But then there’s an attempted rape scene that jars horribly with the jaunty camp the production as a whole strives towards.

In short, this is only fun for those who want to get drenched, and even so you’d probably have more fun at a theme park’s Splash Mountain-type attraction.

Review date: 25 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Assembly George Square

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