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  • Kimberly Laberge

It's a Shpadoinkle Day! Cannibal! The Musical


Photo by Dahlia Katz

Boy meets horse. It’s love. Boy meets miners. It’s cannibalism. In this stage adaptation of Trey Parker’s 1993 independent cult classic of the same name, Cannibal! The Musical, audiences are horrified, thrilled, and altogether entertained by B-rated gore, naughty innuendos, and rousing plot twists.

The irreverent satire is loosely based on the true events of Alferd Packer’s legal trials and confessions of cannibalizing his five hiking companions: Noon, Bell, Humphrey, Miller, and Swan. Pulling scenes from the film and integrating Christopher Bond and Trevor Martin’s new numbers, Cannibal! The Musical has paired clever one liners with slapstick choreography for a night of side splitting laughter (and screams). Unlike the creative team’s 2011 hit, The Book of Mormon, Cannibal! makes light of increasingly taboo topics, including (but not limited to) bestiality, the backward politics of the West, and, most obviously, cannibalism. While the boldness of the humor is, perhaps, the strongest suit of the piece, it also makes this show suitable for a far more limited audience.

Photo by Dahlia Katz

The cast is multidimensional and versatile, made up of eight individuals, tackling a show comprised of far more than eight ensemble players. As one character exits, the same actor/actress would reenter practically immediately in a new costume, becoming another distinct comic of the story. Benjamin Zoëy plays an endearing leading man, Alferd Packer himself, keeping audiences keyed into his narrative even after his story become more appalling than appealing. At times, Taylor Lavigne and David Difrancesco (across many roles) have lacking lower ranges, making lyrics incomprehensible and drowned out by the backing tracks. However, where their singing falls short, their acting sweeps the performance, earning waves of shrieks from the audience.

Stylized technical elements bring the low-budget feel of the 1993 film to stage, for all the good, bad, and ugly that entails. From the first moments of the show, blood is spilled and limbs are severed. The effects, by Marina Snider and Scott Patterson, have just enough realism to retain shock value, while never truly frightening guests. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting adds depth to the campy scenes, but the actors were often out of their beams, casting the final beats of otherwise hilarious showstoppers in half darkness. With some minor adjustments, each of these elements works together to create 1880s Colorado.

Cannibal! The Musical is definitely not for all audiences, but this deliciously niche piece is sure to catch the eyes (and hearts, and shoulders, and ribs) of those with strong stomachs and a dark sense of humor.

#touringcast #madison #cannibalthemusical #treyparker