NYMF Preview: Graham Skipper draws a blood bath in Re-Animator the Musical
For over 20 years, Blue Man Group has been the only show in New York to require the ‘You may get wet’ disclaimer. Now, theatergoers can go from blue to red as they get sprayed with blood from the undead. After two sold-out, extended runs in Los Angeles, Re-Animator the Musical is being presented at the New York Musical Theatre Festival from July 17 through July 22. Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story and 1985 camp film, the musical centers on Herbert West, a young medical student who invents a serum to reawake the dead; naturally, the potion has some unintended side effects. As the stage becomes more populated with West’s killer creations, the carnage reaches the first rows of audience members in the “splash zone.”
The actor charged with the most blood splatter is Graham Skipper, who plays West. A life-long fan of all things cult horror, Skipper feels at home with the plays aesthetics of gore and blood spatter. “When you need an extra push to get you to the end of a show, how could a geyser of red in your face not wake you up?” Skipper said of the on-stage bloodbath.
There are two concoctions used to make the blood in the show. The kind the audience gets sprayed with is a mixture of laundry detergent, baby shampoo, and food coloring, so it’s “easy to wash out,” Skipper explained. The actors get a less forgiving blend, which includes tomato juice. While harder to get out, it also “shows up really well under the stage lights,” Skipper said, who also admitted to often receiving strange looks as he makes his way home from the theater, covered in stage blood.
While the stains are merely an occupational hazard for the cast taken in stride, Skipper said no one in the audience has ever seemed to mind. However, Skipper offers a word of caution for anyone who sees the show. “If I see somebody that’s actively avoiding trying to get wet in the splash zone, of course I’m going to target you.” Skipper recalled a performance in which he locked his aim on a man who repeatedly made futile efforts to hide behind other audience members’ seats. “I got him so bloody and soaking wet,” Skipper said, chuckling. “At the end of the show, I bowed and waved to him; he only seemed a little perturbed.”
For the most part, Skipper said audiences leave Re-Animator screaming with glee. That would explain the success the show had in LA. Originally slated to run for four weeks at the Steve Allen Theatre, Re-Animator quickly found itself playing to sold-out houses of giddy, blood-soaked theatergoers. The run at the Steve Allen turned into six months, which begat a three-month run at LA’s Hayworth Theatre, which ended in June. Now, the original cast is headed to New York for NYMF and then they’re off to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.
Staying with the show since the beginning has been a no-brainer for Skipper, 29, who moved to LA from New York after landing the part of West. The actor, who attended Fordham University (Broadway actor Van Hughes, most recently seen in American Idiot, was his roommate), admits to passing on job offers while waiting for Re-Animator’s next step. “I feel very confident in Re-Animator’s success,” Skipper said. “As an actor, I have always wanted to have one performance that is my Frank ‘N’ Furter. Here I am with Herbert West. I don’t see why I would want to stop working on such a fun project. If you’re having fun, why not keep doing it?”
The blood will continue to flow through the end of August with Re-Animator’s NYMF and Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs. As for what’s next, Skipper remains hopeful for a full-blown New York production. “[Broadway and Off-Broadway runs] have definitely been talked about. Based on other shows that have played there, I think the show would work well at New World Stages. With musical theater, all roads lead to New York,” Skipper said.
For now, Skipper and the cast of Re-Animator are going to do their best at NYMF to paint New York blood red. “There’s this stigma about theater that you have to be on your best behavior. No! Throw that out the window; come and have fun!”
Will you be there for the bloodshed at NYMF, Rushers? Did you catch Re-Animator when it was in LA? What kind of a life do you think the show should have in New York? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!