REVIEW: CANNIBAL! THE MUSICALSTAR THEATRES, DEC 3

From the co-creator of South Park and The Book of Mormon comes Cannibal! The Musical, written by Trey Parker. 

Described as an “All Singing, All Dancing, and All Flesh Eating Musical,” it is an extraordinary night at Adelaide’s Star Theatre.

Cannibal! The Musical tells the true story of the only person convicted of cannibalism in America – Alfred Packer. The sole survivor of an ill-fated trip to the Colorado Territory, Packer delivers his side of the harrowing tale to news reporter Polly Pry as he awaits his execution.

The up and coming young cast of Briggs & Heaysman Theatre Co. take Trey Parker’s script to stage for the unofficial debut for Australian audiences.

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Cannibal! The Musical is exactly what you’d expect from an early Trey Parker script: crude, politically incorrect and at times offensive, but as with all of Parker’s work, the story is witty, hilarious and engaging.

The quality of production from the amateur theatre company is impressive and on Saturday night, the cast performed  well to the intimate, yet packed out, room using everything at their disposal. This included the admirably minimal set and costume design, which takes the audience to the middle of winter in Utah. Moving from an old prospect mine to an Indian reserve in the mountains, our hero Alfred Packer (Josh Telford) leads his troupe to Salt Lake City running into everything from Indians, trappers, a cyclops and, of course, cannibals.

The show offers comedy and horror as the cast sing through their journey as a chorus and soloists. Pianist, Tim Naulty provides accompaniment for the songs, as well as playing us through suspenseful and upbeat moments; Naulty’s performance is a highlight of the show as he leads the audience through this journey.

The spotlight is taken halfway through the show as Polly Pry (Kelsey McCormack) performs a romantic ballad in what is arguably the best vocal performance of the production. Israel Swan’s (Jacob Cooke-Tilley) comedic character has the audience in hysterics as he jaunts through the show with his overly positive motivational song and dance routines. Cooke-Tilley is a stand-out performer and his character a clear favourite of the show, with its melodramatic movements, rubbery facial expressions and monumental charisma.

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Other honourable mentions include Nicholas Miotti as James Humphrey, the stereotypical timid and terrified character. Miotti’s role provides perfect comic relief and additional narrative in a unique and engaging way, without drawing away from the main characters. 

Ali Bertoldi, as preacher Shannon Bell, is an unlikely villain and provides a shocking twist at the end. Easily the most distinctive and projected voice on stage, Bertoldi’s conviction to his deep southern accent transports the room to Bingham Mine, Utah.

However, the biggest highlight is when Briggs & Heaysman Theatre Co. sings as a collective unit as a full cast of Cannibal!, performing a flawless finale to an incredibly appreciative audience on Saturday night.

Cannibal! The Musical has something for everyone with a thick skin: politically incorrect comedy, genuine musical and acting talent, and a lovable cast of local actors.

Matthew Briggs directed a hilariously memorable performance proving the company to be a contender in Adelaide’s richly talented amateur theatre community. Keep an eye out for more from this company in 2017.

Reviewed by Thomas Jackson

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