A Tasty Treat

"Wait, you’re cutting into his butt!"

"Well, what kind of piece do you want?"

"Well, not the butt!"


Think of it as dinner theater. Just don’t dwell on the menu.

"It’s a different flavor for us," says John Beane, who’s directing "Cannibal! The Musical," the main course for March at mainstream-averse Onyx Theatre. "It’s got moments of brilliant, deadpan humor, a real treat. Besides, I’m a whore for anything that brilliantly mocks the medium I’ve dedicated my life to. This show is very Onyx-friendly."

The grisly-goofy musical about the queasiest of cuisines — fried up in the brainpan of Trey "South Park" Parker — opens this weekend as a bizarre appetizer served by the alternative arts-loving Insurgo Theater Movement.

"Haven’t you heard of the Donner Party?"

"They had to eat each other to stay alive."

"You wouldn’t even eat your shoes."

"Yeah, but you put your feet in shoes."

If a snack-size run suggests a lingering Las Vegas appetite for this flesh-eating opus, "Cannibal!" could carve out a permanent place at this city’s opulent entertainment banquet.

"New York, London and Las Vegas are the three big theater towns we’re thinking of for this show," says Jason McHugh, who co-starred with Parker in the original "Cannibal! The Musical" student film that’s cooked up a cult following over the past decade, garnished with "Rocky Horror"-style screenings — cue line-mimicking, popcorn-pelting fans — and stage salutes nationwide.

You’re doomed! Doomed! Doomed! Doomed! Doomed! … You’re all doomed!

As executive producer of the Onyx production, McHugh is investigating whether "Cannibal!" could be more than a quick nosh. "For Vegas, our long-term goal is to set it up as some kind of dinner theater, like a weekly barbecue. We’re looking into the right setting and venue for it. It’s based on real incidents that took place in Colorado and Utah, so Vegas would be perfect for it."

(Burly fur-trappers break into song, then abruptly stop)

"You were singing in the wrong key."

"I was singing in E-flat minor."

"The song’s in F-sharp major."

"Are you singing Mixolydian scales?"

Alive with carnage, show tunes and a man’s unseemly affection for his horse (which remains curiously uneaten), "Cannibal!" was initially an artistic hors d’oeuvre for Parker — its writer, director, producer, composer and star — who spat it out as a three-minute trailer for film class at the University of Colorado in the early ’90s, then made a cinematic meal of it when classmates hungered for more. Also co-starring future "South Park" collaborator Matt Stone, it’s a cheerfully debauched paean to America’s only convicted cannibal, Alfred Packer, who led a 19th-century expedition from Utah to Colorado to find gold and left five bodies cold — and partially gnawed on, like a leftover plate of ribs at a Vegas buffet — after miscalculating the journey.

(Approaching the Grand Canyon:)

"Come on, we can just walk around it. It can’t be that big."

"People who find it really embrace it as something they’ve discovered," McHugh says. "Even the average ‘South Park’ fan doesn’t know ‘Cannibal!’ exists, so when they find it, it’s like they’ve found this diamond. It’s got seven original songs by Trey that are really catchy and fun. It definitely has the same flavor and spirit that ‘South Park’ does."

Music to munch by includes songs such as "On Top of You," "Hang the Bastard" and "Shpadoinkle." Typical of Parker’s twisted humor, the movie ends with a retroactive epilogue: "Due to the graphic nature of this film, it should not have been watched by young children." (The DVD also includes a "drunken director’s commentary.")

"We’re almost up over this last ridge."

"We can’t do it, Packer. We can’t even stand up."

"I’ll go, you guys just watch the fire. And nobody eat anybody."

"Trey Parker has this amazing ability to do musical theater and at the same time mock all these elements of it," Beane says of the film that inspired an off-off-Broadway production in 2000. "But there’s no official stage version of the movie, so whenever it’s done, it has to be adapted by the company doing it. It’s got a blank-canvas feel to a lot of it, and they’re very much into us making our own version of it."

"Hang the bastard, hang him with cheer; We’ll make some hot dogs and drink a few beers; And when his tongue rolls out we’ll know, it’s the end of the show and we all can go home."

Bring an appetite for insanity to "Cannibal! The Musical." It should be forkfuls of fun.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0256.

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