Years pre-South Park, Colorado college kid Trey Parker wrote a musical based on a historic case of cannibalism. Not sure if he was a sophomore, but he had a handle on the guilty pleasure of sophomoric humor.
The eventual result (produced by his buddy Matt Stone) was the Troma films movie Cannibal! The Musical.
The 1993 movie – complete with its score of terrifically funny songs – has had a second life, live at fringe festivals and other alternative stages. In effect, it’s the other Parker/Stone stage musical after The Book of Mormon.
However, the lively and hilarious version of Trey Parker’s Cannibal! The Musical that’s playing at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre, may be the most professionally crafted and presented version on offer.
Parker has encouraged tinkering with the musical. But director Christopher Bond, co-writer Trevor Martin and music director Aaron Eyre (all veterans of the outrageously campy Evil Dead: The Musical) manage to both enhance it (with new songs and jokes) and make it seem of a piece with the original.
The best songs are still of original vintage – including the rousing Oklahoma! spoof Shpadoinkle (“The sky is blue and all the leaves are green. The sun’s as warm as a baked potato…”) and When I Was on Top of You, our, um, hero Alferd Packer’s line-crossing ode to his horse Liane.
But Eyre shows a sure hand with songs like the opener, Gentlemen of the West and the hilarious That´s All I’m Asking For (a love song that would take some explaining, but it’s part of Parker’s racially absurdist inclusion of an “Indian” tribe that speaks Japanese and practices karate).
The play opens with the cannibalism trial of Alferd Packer (a handsome, perky Liam Tobin), a guilty verdict and the beginnings of a jail-cell tale of miners-lost-in-the-mountains told to a comely Denver newspaper reporter named Polly Pry (Elicia MacKenzie).
Alferd’s companions are a broad lot of character sketches, performed energetically by a cast that includes accomplished sketch comedy performers (including Second City veterans Marty Adams and Mike “Nug” Nahrgang).
Nahrgang has a surly about-to-explode vibe that he uses to effect as both Miller, the miner who moonlights as, (ahem) a butcher, and as Frenchie, the leader of a group of trappers (French trappers in Colorado?) who become the enemies of our gang.
Perhaps the most effective portrayal, though, is Tim Porter as Noon, the 19-year-old who worries that he’ll die before ever having a chance to have sex (yes, there will be snuggling to avert the cold, and humping too). His constant horniness has its finest moments with Yuki (Lana Carillo), the giggling Japanese caricature who is the daughter of the “Indian” chief.
The songs are great, the choreography enthusiastic and fun, and even miscues – like a laughing corpse – add to the meta energy of the play.
But it’s the timing and rhythms of the jokes that will appeal most to South Park fans and Parker/Stone fans in general. Most of them are unprintable. There will be farts. And poop. And a feast off some poor guy’s butt. And a guy offering Packer a piece of fudge with a two-word query that elicited one of the bigger laughs of the night.
In a word, Trey Parker’s Cannibal! The Musical is distasteful. Deliciously so.
Cannibal! The Musical is on now until March 8 at the Panasonic Theatre. For ticket info, visit Mirvish.com.
Posted On : February 22nd, 2015
Posted By : Jim Slotek on Toronto Sun