Saturday, October 13, 2018

Less than clever “Cannibal! The Musical” raw @ Blank Canvas

As Blank Canvas’s program notes states, “Before South Park.  Before “The Book of Mormon.  There was “Cannibal! The Musical!” 

Yes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of one of television’s cult shows and a long running musical, as college students, put their genius together and produced a three-minute trailer for a film class.  They then raised enough money and produced the full-length black comedy horror musical, “Cannibal! The Musical.” 

Originally a flop, after the success of their television and Broadway shows, the film became a cult-favorite.

Oh, if the film, turned into a stage show, was any way as clever as their later works!  As is, it is holds a slight telescope to view the “sense of humor” of the duo.

The process of developing the project was written about in the book, "Shpadoinkle: The Making of Cannibal! The Musical," which chronicles all aspects of the creation and how the film became a cult phenomenon.

The tale it tells is loosely based on a true story of a man an accused of cannibalism (thus the title). 

Alfred Packer, in “real life” led a group of five men from Bingham Canyon, Utah, through the Colorado Territory, in search of the city of Breckenridge, where gold had supposedly been found.  Only Packer survived the trip.  Supposedly, he made it by eating his fellow travelers. 

The tale tells how Packer and his trusty horse, Liane, set off on what should be a three-week journey.  The travelers include Shannon Bell, an aspiring Mormon priest; James Humphrey, who was forced by his father to go on the journey; Frank Miller, a cynical butcher; George Noon, a horny teenager hoping to meet girls; and Israel Swan, an optimist.  

Getting lost, getting more lost, meeting up with some native Americans and a group of trappers, wandering in the Rockies, getting further lost, and Packer arriving alone in the town of Saguache without the rest of his party, and his eventual arrest for cannibalism, follows.  

The show includes a series of scenes, with over-wrought dialogue, chopped together into a script with such musical numbers as “It’s A Shpadoinkle Day,” which gets an unneeded reprise, well, in fact, two reprises.  Also included are “Don’t Be Stupid,” “When I Was On Top of You,” “Let’s Build a Snowman,” (yep it gets a reprise), “Swan’s Swan Song” and the ever popular, “Hang the Bastard.”  Oh, and there’s “Packer’s Dream Ballet.”  (Honest, I couldn't make this stuff up!)

Patrick Ciamacco, the Artistic Director of Blank Canvas states, ‘’I have been wanting to direct and produce this show for some time now.”  (Oy, why?)

To his credit, Ciamacco has a wonderful sense of humor and has proven over and over his ability to take way-out material and make it at its best, hysterical, at its lowest level, palatable.  He’s successfully staged the likes of “Debbie Does Dallas,” “Psycho Beach Party,” “Hellcab,” and “Silence, the Musical.”)   He often selects scripts that no other theatre in the area would.  He loves blood splatter-zones, ear shattering music, and ridiculous farce.

The cast tried hard, the band played with enthusiasm, but, unfortunately, with “Cannibal! The Musical,” Ciamacco appears to have met his unsaveable challenge.
Even with all the farcical shticks, double-takes, over-blown stylized acting, blood and urine sprays, bloody bodily pieces parts, including an erect penis and bloody testicles, the show is not funny, not even gross, just stupid.

(Side note:  if you do attend, unless you want to leave covered with fake blood and urine, don’t sit in the first row yellow seats.   A couple, whether intentional or not, wore white t-shirts and jeans and left in red and yellow attire!  (It’s washable, but . . .)

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  Blank Canvas pulls out all the stops in order to make “Cannibal! The Musical!” palatable, but from my stodgy old view-point, it just doesn’t succeed.  Some of the theatre’s die-hard regulars, including the guy sitting next to me who clapped and howled throughout the goings on, may be thoroughly amused, but consider this:  even the usual automatic standing ovation of CLE productions, was missing.

Cannibal the Musical!” runs through October 28, 2018, in the Blank Canvas west side theatre, 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland.   For tickets and directions go to

Next up at Blank Canvas is irreverent, fun filled “Avenue Q,” running from December 7-22, 2018