A Disappointingly Small Show for a Big Company: A Review of Starvox’s “Cannibal: The Musical”

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Before the curtain had even risen, I knew I was in for a mediocre-at-best production; when a theatre the size of the Panasonic doesn’t even have show programs, you get the feeling they really aren’t putting their all into it. Then, when the show starts late (after a couple false starts where the terrible pre-show music died down, and we were all sure the show was finally going to begin) you start to wonder what it is you’re paying all that money for (the Mirvish name doesn’t seem to be on synonymous with quality, just with high prices **EDIT: a helpful commenter just pointed out that this was actually produced by Starvox, but I’m still going to stick by this comment!).

I generally try to keep my reviews positive, so I’ll keep this one short; the book & score is, as I suspected, mediocre. The same type of jokes you know to expect from South Park and Book of Mormon creator Trey Parker, but considerably less sharp and clever than his usual work; it’s like he pulled out all the ‘B’ material that didn’t make it into those shows, and then mixed in a few references to random things like vintage video games and Disney’s Frozen. There isn’t much to the story, and there is even less to the characters. The only song that stayed in my head for more than a minute after it played was “Eat Me” (I’m assuming that’s the title, having difficulty finding the stage musical’s song list online). Admittedly, that one was sort of catchy.

The directing took what could have been a dumb but fun show and made it into something almost painful to watch. Bizarre choices were made with elements like the blood and gore; why choose to have the squirting blood pack in the opening number only to ignore it for the rest of the show? Going from decent effects to Halloween-quality props & gore later on just makes you think they didn’t want to spend the money, or put in the effort to clean up stage blood. The costumes were also disappointing in that there were several malfunctions; wigs falling off (more than once), a nun with a long slit up the back of her dress – it just felt like an amateur college show.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, the performers did do an incredible job. Many of the jokes fell flat, but the awkward delivery I would blame more on the directing than the actors, as it seemed to be consistent across the board. Like it was being put together by someone who had no understanding of the type of delivery needed to pull off Parker’s style of comedy. Still, they had a great physical presence, a couple very strong dancers, and the actors playing Parker (Liam Tobin) & Polly (Elicia MacKenzie) were fantastic singers. MacKenzie especially stood out in her various bit parts. When playing the angel in the “Eat Me” number she showed off some amazing vocals, and as the old woman she displayed some strong physical comedy skills. It should also be noted that the actors all played multiple roles, sometimes with little time in between; switching characters and costumes quickly is a difficult job, but they all pulled it off.

Overall, I’m sorry to say, the show is a waste of time and money. I was really surprised and disappointed to see something this poorly done at a big theatre, but I guess it goes to show that you can’t judge a company by its budget, be it big or small. Hopefully the actors will all be cast in something of this scale, but higher quality, again soon; they would be worth watching again.

-E.

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Theatre Lovers

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Valentine’s day is just around the corner & I suspect many of you are scrambling to pull together something better for your loved one than the cliched flowers & chocolate. While I see lists for things like “Valentine’s Day Gifts for Geeks” or “Sports Lovers”, “Food Lovers”, us theatre folk are sometimes neglected this time of year. But while it may not pop up in the trending section on Buzzfeed, it’s certainly worth a list in my books, because really, what lends itself better to romance than theatre? Here are a few of my personal suggestions for Valentine’s gifts for the theatre lover in your life:

  1. Tickets to a Play:
    Ok, so this one is kind of a no-brainer, but it needs to be on the list because, for non-theatre folk, it may at first seem like too expensive a gift. While you can pay hundreds of dollars to see a big Broadway-type show at Mirvish, for a fraction of the price there are dozens of brilliant small stage productions in the city. Look up Toronto favourites like The Storefront Theatre to get an eclectic mix of shows from groups like Theatre Brouhaha and Red One Theatre. For musicals, The Lower Ossington (LOT), First Act Productions and many University groups often have a good sampling. Why not make it a theatre weekend? For the price of a pair of tickets to something like Book of Mormon you could instead hit up four or five local shows. Yes, it may be riskier than a big budget show, but you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. And at the very least you will get a chance to support some local artists and see what’s going on in the Toronto theatre scene.
  2. A Collection of Romantic Plays:
    What’s sweeter than a book of plays that says “I love you” in a beautiful, poetic way? Whether you go for some contemporary musicals (maybe throw in the soundtrack as well?) or scour vintage stores & Etsy for a hardcover Shakespeare, this is a gift that can be kept for a lifetime. Wanna get extra sappy? Pull some quotes from the book to put in a card, or leave a note for your special someone on a particularly romantic page.
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  3. A Vintage Theatre Poster:
    If you’re ever looking for a stunning poster to brighten up your walls, your first search should be for vintage theatre posters. From the intricate designs of the 1910s & 20s, to the bold, minimalistic 50s and 60s, there really is a design to match anyone’s style and taste. Check out Ebay or Etsy to get a vintage copy, or just hit up a local framing shop and you can likely nab a cheap print. Give it to them framed, for extra brownie points.
  4. Theatre Inspired T-Shirts:
    I’ll admit, I was surprised at just how many of these I could find. From shirts made up for major Broadway shows, to more obscure prints done by fellow theatre buffs, there’s really quite a range. If you know someone’s favourite show, try searching it first, otherwise, you can’t really go wrong with a classic musical or Shakespearean quote.
  5. Theatre Inspired Socks:
    What, socks aren’t romantic? Ok, maybe not to everyone, but as someone who, a.) always has freezing cold feet & b.) has made a point of wearing colourful or patterned socks her entire life (when you’ve had to wear a uniform for most of your jobs, you look for little ways like that to rebel), a cool pair is something to be cherished. Plus, look at these things! At the very least you’ll get points for creativity.
  6. Theatre Inspired Jewellery:
    From references that only fans will get (quick – what does the “24601” on that necklace mean?) to simpler statements like “theatre geek”, there is a VAST array of jewellery available for the theatre fan in your life. If you’ve got a musical lover for a beau, try a custom charm bracelet that features the Playbills of all the shows they’ve seen. (give up? It’s from Les Mis).
  7. Theatre Decor:
    Does your theatre lover have a home or a room to decorate? Then pillows, blankets, knick knacks and more can be added to your list. Rather than getting a cheap souvenir from a show, why not go all out and get a funky pillow, or even devote an entire bedspread to a favourite show. If you want something a little less intense, try a keepsake box for tickets or playbills.
  8. A Musical Theatre Scorebook:
    If your special someone is musically inclined, then a score book can be especially fun. While it may be easy to download movies & music online, the same can rarely be said for sheet music. I would recommend the Singers Musical Theatre Anthology Collection; they’ve got tons of songs & come with accompaniment cds. Tip: make sure you know their singing range before buying, if you’re getting a book for a vocalist. Unlike the scores for an entire show, they tend to be grouped as being for altos, or sopranos, etc.
  9. Theatre Classes:
    For actors and theatre production workers alike, there are a remarkable lot of classes and courses available in the city and surrounding areas. I’ve taken millinery & prop food courses from Off The Wall in Stratford, and our here places like The Social Capital Theatre offer various types of improv classes. Depending on the time of year you may find some really cool workshops as well, so I’d suggest hitting up google and seeing what catches your eye.10425384_987580231271930_1545698752391215054_n

    10. A Theatre Themed Night:
    If you have a particular show you know your lover likes, why not set up a night that revolves all around it? Start off with food inspired by the show; love Cabaret? eat all German dishes. A fan of Wicked? Sip some green cocktails. You get the idea. Then, nerd out while watching a filmed version (or live if you can!) and singing along; look up the lyrics beforehand if you have to. You can go as far with this as your imagination & pocketbook can take you, and whatever you do, putting in the effort to have a night all about something that your partner loves, whether it’s your sort of thing or not, is going to be one of the sweetest things you can do. After all, it really is the thought that counts.

 

Got any ideas you think are missing from this list? Give me a shout! Let’s help our fellow theatre folk out.

-E.