Its not surprising that Dads Garage Theatre would want to revisit Cannibal! The Musical. A decade ago, the companys original adaptation of the no-budget musical by South Park co-creator Trey Parker helped put the fledgling Inman Park playhouse on the map. Cannibal! debuted opposite the Alliance Theatres Broadway-bound Elton John musical Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida (subsequently shortened to just Aida), and The New York Times Magazine ran a wry little info box about the two shows. One of Cannibals characters even played with a pyramid-shaped toy, in a shout-out to Aidas famously glitchy mechanical pyramid.
The program for Dads 10th anniversary remount of Cannibal! The Musical says that the original adaptation by Sean Daniels and Matthew Stanton has been further adapted by Mike Katinsky and George Faughnan, the shows director. I saw the new Cannibal! Saturday night and it struck me as drastically different. Theres an all-new cast, a completely different set and different approach to the big laughs. In 1998, the Confederate war-veteran/Cyclops didnt just squirt fluid from his empty eye socket, he doused a splash zone of people in the audience. The new Cannibal! keeps its fluids onstage, mostly.
I cant claim to remember everything about the original show, although it definitely worked more inside jokes about South Park into its flip treatment of Alferd Packer and a Donner Party-esque disaster in 19th century Colorado. The new version, however, seemed to lack a certain essential spark. I wouldnt necessarily say that the magics gone magic is not the word to describe a show that features lines like Fudge, Packer? But the production I saw, the comedic timing proved surprisingly tentative, a crucial flaw given a show with such an intentionally stoopid script.
The new Cannibal! handily trumps its predecessor with its gore effects, however. Chris Brown, who brought grisly invention to Dads previous production, the original musical Song of the Living Dead, offers more witty effects here. When the inaptly named Lucky Larry gets struck by lightning, a blackened, smoldering skull rolls past his body. When the ravenous travelers begin carving Deans characters body, the scene looks queasily realistic. The ghastly props and nightmarish slapstick prove much more entertaining than the jokes and musical numbers.
Steven Westdahl gave the most charismatic performance as a bullying trapper who comes across like a psychopathic Daniel Boone, and Gabriel Dean delivers a crazed, spunky musical number Lets Build a Snowman to a group dying of frostbite and starvation. Doug Graham captures Packers wide-eyed naiveté, but he simply lacks the vocal oomph for the musical numbers. In the previous production, Trent Blanton served as a credible comedic lead, able to belt out the tune Shpadoinkle like hes singing lead in Oklahoma! Heres Trey Parker, singing that song in the beginning of the original Cannibal! film:
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Cannibal! The Musical plays through Oct. 18.
(Photo courtesy Dad's Garage)
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