Cannibal! The Musical
Reviewed by Pauline Adamek
Coeurage Theatre Company at Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Café
Through Nov. 22
Trey Parker is best known for being one half of the duo who created the irreverent animated TV show South Park. He and Matt Stone also recently earned Tony Awards for their smash-hit musical The Book of Mormon. Working solo, Parker’s hysterically funny western spoof Cannibal! The Musical is an appealing mash-up of Mormon and South Park, but with a new storyline and setting — bumbling prospectors in search of gold in 1872. (Book, music and lyrics are by New Cannibal Society and this show is directed by Tito Fleetwood Ladd.)
Cannibal! The Musical is making its Los Angeles premiere and Coeurage is the perfect company to present it. Musical director Gregory Nabours leads the 23-member troupe of excellent singers and musicians; Nabours also amusingly appears throughout as a slimy prosecutor. (Actually, several of the on-stage musicians occasionally appear in memorable roles, effortlessly handing off their instruments to another performer, before donning a costume piece.) Mikey De Lara (on guitar) is a standout as the stoic Indian Chief, while ensemble members and musicians Kari Lee and Jane Lui give fantastic impersonations of the Japanese-speaking Native Americans. (In Parker’s world, the “Indians” wield samurai swords and their Chief imparts wisdom with a thick Japanese accent, intoning advice such as, “Don’t venture into the Colorado Mountains during wintertime.”
But our hapless sextet of enthusiastic prospectors is hell bent on finding gold and doesn’t seem to notice the guy they’ve press-ganged to lead them — our hero Packer (Kurt Quinn) — doesn’t have the first clue about where they are going. “God will provide,” Mormon Preacher Bell (Peter Larney) declares cheerfully, though his optimism sours a bit when he wanders into a bear trap.
In the course of their journey, the prospectors encounter various obstacles, including a menacing trio of trappers — Joe Tomasini is hilarious as the ape-like, posturing bully Frenchy, complete with twin dunderheaded henchmen played by Mike Brady and Ryan Brady. When Packer’s beloved horse Liane (gorgeously portrayed by Kalena Ranoa, a statuesque blonde in a corset and tutu) goes missing, along with the gang’s vittles, the search for gold falters.
The instrumentation is appealingly varied, with harmonium, xylophone, recorder, wooden pipe, piano accordion and even tap shoes on call when needed to support the core sounds emanating from piano, guitar, fiddle and drums. The whole spectacle is nicely framed as a flashback as Packer cools his heels behind bars, facing hanging for eating his missing companions. Only Polly (hardcore reporter and “sob sister” played by Ashley Kane) seems intent on unearthing the real story behind the tragedy and possibly exonerating her crush.
The show delights.
Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., midnight; through Nov. 22. (323) 944-2165, http://www.coeurage.org/tickets (All shows are “Pay What You Can”)