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.