Spotlight: Cannibal! The Musical

Will Twin Cities audiences eat up the season's first cannibalistic musical?

Ben Thietje

The Mechanical Division's adaptation of Trey Parker's 1996 film begins auspiciously, with a hilarious video of Alferd Packer (Josh Mitchell) running amok in snowy hills on a graphic, bloody murder rampage. Based on the true story of a man convicted for cannibalism after getting lost in the Colorado mountains and utilizing his dead companions for sustenance, Cannibal! The Musical has lots of potential for tasteless good fun, and while this show is frequently bogged down by spotty production values, it does manage to provide some good laughs. Mitchell plays Packer as a burly schlub, to good effect, and a kinky highlight is his ambiguous relationship with his horse Liane (Jessica Nievinski). A sample lyric, sung in maudlin reverie after Liane disappears: "There was nothing I couldn't do, when I was on top of you." Probably the most appealing thing about the story is its inevitability, as Packer's band of idiots trudges off to meet their gastronomically offensive fate. There's Bell (Peter Simonson), a would-be preacher who is repeatedly snapped by a bear trap, and who staves off being eaten for a time by displaying his hideous wound. Bell starts to lose his mind a little earlier than the others, though he's soon joined by Swan (Ben Thietje), who enthusiastically launches into the tap-dance number "Let's Build a Snowman" as he descends into hypothermic delusion. The main problem throughout the evening is that few in the cast are possessed of stage-worthy voices (Mitchell, for his part, can belt out a tune), and at times a number of the players are difficult to hear over the prerecorded music. While the cast throws itself enthusiastically into the silliness, the constraints of the theater space make for awkward scene changes (and there are many), and the lighting and overall design do little to augment matters. Another questionable decision: performing the show in two acts, with an intermission, which might be asking an audience to make too great a commitment to a flyweight enterprise. Still, the point of the endeavor is a bit craptastic in the first place, and there's no shortage here of good one-liners about frozen testicles, the romantic leanings of lonely men, and the nutritional value of one's traveling companions.

 
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