cannibal! the musical by Trey Parker, directed by Christine Gresham, with Stephen Sheffer, Rebecca Kray, Kate Josephson, Kris Bruun and Dejan Zahirovic. Presented by Toolkit Productions at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to June 8, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, late-night shows Friday-Saturday 11 pm. $12, Friday late show pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NN Rating: NN
According to their mission statement, the folks behind Cannibal! The Musical want the show to attract "a new audience demographic." What demographic is that? Morons?Written by South Park co-creator Trey Parker, the show uses intentionally bad musical numbers to tell the story of Alferd Packer (a sweet-voiced Stephen Sheffer), notorious for being the only person to be convicted of cannibalism in North America. It's faux-naive theatre, like Waiting For Guffman, but with a fraction of the wit and none of the heart.
That's too bad, because the structure is solid, if familiar. We open in a courtroom with Packer's life in jeopardy, a sympathetic female reporter (Kate Josephson) on hand to get him to recount his story, and lots of flashbacks to flesh out the tale of flesh-eating.
The clunky script might work if it were a play-within-a-play on South Park, whose crude animation techniques and continuing characters' charm might add depth and texture to the story. Hey, Kenny could play the first victim! With humans in the piece, though, its flaws become glaring.
Watching the show is like listening to someone give a Cartman impression for 90 minutes. It becomes boring, fast. Broadway-style choreography is sent up non-stop. Songs with sexually suggestive titles like When I Was On Top Of You -- sung, by the way, by a man to his horse -- are tired before they begin.
And despite energetic, sincere work by Sheffer, Josephson and a few others, some performers are directed by Christine Gresham to go so over-the-top -- Suzanne Walker as a shrieking trapper comes to mind -- that you need earplugs.