The audience was out for blood at the opening of Cannibal The Musical.
When the creators of Evil Dead the Musical adapt a cult, and very gory, film from one of the creators of South Park for the stage, hilarity inevitably results. Despite an opening joke that resulted in a geyser of blood, Cannibal The Musical is surprisingly chaste when it comes to violence. This restraint, or perhaps an attempt at artistic evolution, makes the much-anticipated cannibalism scene a comic gem - one play on words in particular, which it would be a sin to spoil, brought down the house and still has me sniggering.
There are jokes in abundance, from slapstick to Python-esque wordplay to gross-out gags. The clever "The Trapper Song" uses disgustingly violent imagery with contrasting puppetry, before descending into a debate about the song's musical key. The show begins with a fart joke and sure enough there is a ripping reprise. The fourth wall collapses as the cast mocks the goings-on, before being resurrected for a musical theatre cliché that inevitably is another joke. A crude (but hilarious) innuendo-laden visual spoofing gay group sex segues into a big ballad, "When I Was On Top of You," sung about a much romanced and lusted after horse. There is a startling amount of implied and blatant bestiality in Cannibal The Musical and the horse actually drives the plot, getting a big laugh by shitting on stage, an act that leads to crasser and even more scatological laughs.
The framework of anything goes for a laugh is a godsend for the cast who seem to have been culled from a wish list of comedians. Double takes, attempts to crack each other up, and impeccable comic timing are consistent throughout. Tim Porter is a loose-limbed scene stealer as a fey trapper (yes, it is an offensive stereotype, but every other group, ethnic, religious, etc, gets lampooned as well), a horny virgin, and a vengeful cyclops. How Mark Andrada doesn't collapse into a pool of sweat (he did dissolve into a fit of helpless giggles while being cannibalized anally) as he, its even acknowledged, switches caricatures at a frenetic rate. Ditto for sexy spitfire Lana Carillo (except for the anal part).
Relying on comedians for a musical is a risk, but they are not undone by the strenuousness of the song and dance, but rather by the sound system at the Panasonic. The balance between the band and the singers, let alone between the individual singers, never quite meshes and a lot of words and melody are lost. Elicia MacKenzie is woefully underutilized but uses her big voice to make the best of her big numbers. Lead Liam Tobin is far too charming and handsome for an anti-hero, but he brings a guileless innocence to the role. He blossoms in a ballet battle for the love of his horse, and he sells the ballad about being on top with wide-eyed sweetness that is spectacularly ridiculous.
The set is full of surprises - though a snowstorm during this cold spell was chilling - and if the plot wanders into incoherence, it's only in search of another gag. Perhaps the sound problems muted the energy enough to not allow Cannibal The Musical to achieve the heights of delirious depravity it aspires to. Or maybe it just takes a lot more than a solid score, clever staging, a stellar cast and suggestive wit to be provocative. The audience didn't get blood, but they were certainly entertained.
Cannibal The Musical continues until Sat, Mar 8 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St. cannibalonstage.com