Shock Till You Drop: So after all these years, Re-animator is now a musical! What prompted the adaptation to stage?
Stuart Gordon: Since writing and directing the film, Re-Animator has become my middle name. For years people kept suggesting that it would make a great musical but I would just laugh. Then one day it struck me that the story could be easily adapted to the stage as it has a small cast of characters and limited locations. Also the special effects we had utilized in making the film were practical (unlike the computer generated effects of today) and could actually be done live on-stage.
Shock: Were you worried that it wouldn't transfer over to the stage?
Gordon: Musicals based on horror films have become a large sub-genre beginning with Little Shop Of Horrors and continuing on with Sweeny Todd, The Phantom Of The Opera and Evil Dead (which I have not seen.) Because horror films are usually larger than life and so overly emotional they lend themselves to an almost operatic musical form. The key was finding a composer who could capture both the horror and comedy inherent in the movie. Luckily I discovered the strangely off-kilter work of Mark Nutter.
Mark’s style can best be compared to the amazing work of Tom Lehrer in the‘50s (Poisoning pigeons In the Park) - cheerfully disturbing. While I assumed that we would have a dozen songs in the show, Mark ended up setting the entire story to music. I think there are only about ten minutes of spoken word in the whole show. In fact it should be called Re-Animator The Operetta (but no one would show up).
Shock: How was it directing George Wendt as West - had he seen the films? Was he familiar with your work?
Gordon: Directing George Wendt is always great fun because he can take the most mundane scene and make it hilarious. George is an old friend from my days as a theater director in Chicago, and we met when he was at Second City. George is a fan of horror and he’s appeared in several of my films: Space Truckers, King Of The Ants and Edmond. George actually produced one of Mark Nutter’s earlier musicals, so when I told him we were developing a musical version of Re-Animator he was all about it. He took part in every reading and backers’ audition we did in the early days and having him with us at the Fringe Festival is a dream come true.
Shock: How was the initial reaction to the show? Have the hardcore fans been happy?
Gordon: Audiences seem to love the show and they don’t have to see the film to appreciate it. As a matter of fact I was surprised that the great majority of our audiences have never seen the movie. This is apparent by their gasps and screams as unexpected twists catch them by surprise. But those who have seen the film will find it remarkably true to its source…and just as bloody. The interactive quality of the bloodletting far exceeds anything you can get from a horror film (even in 3D) and the seats in the splash zone have become the most popular. It’s like sitting in the first car of a roller coaster.
Shock: You previously directed combs in a one man theatrical show in Nevermore..an evening with Edgar Allan Poe. How was the experience compared to this show?
Gordon: Working with Jeffrey Combs on Nevermore was an amazing experience that was inspired by The Black Cat, the episode we did together for the television series Masters Of Horror in which he first played Poe. I felt that I was actually on the set with Edgar himself and the idea of sharing this experience with a live audience was the next logical step.
Shock: Have any of the original cast members offered their thoughts on the show? Did Combs like it?
Gordon: Jeffrey has seen (it) and enjoyed it, as have Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott. But they have all said that it was extremely weird hearing other actors say their lines from the film. They told me they felt they had been transported to an alternate universe.
Shock: You started your career in theatre, working alongside names like David Mamet - what made you take to film?
Gordon: I always wanted to make films and got into theatre almost by accident. The film class at the university I attended was full and I couldn’t get in, so I took an acting class instead and got hooked on theatre. I took a fifteen year detour in which I got to work directly with great writers like Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and David Mamet before finally returning to film. People used to say that my plays were like movies without film, and we used movie effects like bullet squibs and blood bags.
Shock: Any film projects in the pipeline we can look forward to?
Gordon: I’m about to direct a play entitled Taste which is inspired by the true story of the Rotenberg cannibal who placed an ad on the internet for someone to kill and eat, which he did. But I’ve also got a few film projects that I hope to shoot next year.
For more on the production, visit ReAnimatorTheMusical.com.