I didn’t know what to expect of “The Texas Chainsaw Musical,” a musical parody that loosely draws on the 1974 horror flick, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
What I got was a shower of fake blood in my face, one of the great special effects of this ghoulish thriller about a serial killer who gets his jollies hacking his hapless victims with a chainsaw.
The show isn’t great theater but it’s great fun, depending on your predilection for the mock macabre and blood flying everywhere.
With book by Christopher T. Minori and music and lyrics by Cory Bytof, the show shamelessly borrows from other musical sources, including characters like a bible-wielding missionary (“Book of Mormon”), a masked man (“Phantom of the Opera”) and a singing nun (“Sound of Music”). Think “Silence of the Lambs” meets “Bonnie and Clyde.”
The show reprised at Blank Canvas is a blast, thanks to Patrick Ciamacco’s tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek direction and a superb cast that gets the creepy camp just right.
Eddy (Perren Hedderson) is a strange kid who delights in tormenting his schoolmates and teachers and setting animals on fire in his town of Plainfield, Texas. When his doting Momma (Kim Eskut) is confronted with Eddie’s murderous impulses, she tries to rid the world of her deranged son, but Eddie kills her first, unleashing the psychopath within in a murderous rampage. When Eddy falls for one of his intended victims, it forces a change of heart, leading to the shocking and unexpected ending.
“Chainsaw” isn’t all laughs. The moral of the musical is that a penchant for evil resides in all of us.
The songs aren’t memorable, and the bloodbath wears thin after a while, but a terrifically talented cast overrides the musical’s limitations.
With his robotic movements, grotesque mask, wielding a chainsaw like a machine gun, Hedderson is hilariously over the top as the loose cannonball Eddy. Eskut plays a pair of moms with equally comic effect. A witchlike Kate Leigh Michalski is perfect as Lucretia, a water meter reader and closet necrophiliac who becomes Eddy’s partner in crime. Eric Thomas Fancher is suitably square as the loser Steven, a momma’s boy in love with Kristy (a bubbly Neely Gevaart), the girl next door, whose dreams of a modeling career get her into a whale of trouble. Curt Arnold is a hoot as Mr. Jason, Eddie’s teacher and Ezekiel, a save-your-soul missionary whose partner is a loud-mouthed puppet.
Bocal powerhouse Leslie Andrews brings down the house with her rousing revivalist number, “The Gospel According to Steven.” Rounding out the top-drawer cast are Douglas F. Bailey II, Keith Cavey and Pat Miller in a variety of supporting roles that boost the silliness and the sinister, adding to the fun.
Music director Carter Sligh, with Justin Hart on drums and Jesse Fishman on guitar, create just the right surround sound for the theater’s cozy environs.
Jenniver Sparano’s cartoon-like costumes, Cory Molner’s eerie lighting and Ciamocco’s deceptively bucolic farm setting enhance the humor and the horror.
Raves for P.J. Toomey’s special effects design, from severed heads to burning cats, and for the sleight-of-hand genius of director Ciamacco and Chuck Klein, sending gallons of blood in all directions.
I missed the show when it debuted at Blank Canvas in 2012. How glad I am to have this second chance.
WHAT: “The Texas Chainsaw Musical”
WHERE: Blank Canvas Theatre at 78th Street Studios, 1305 W. 78th St., Suite 21l, Cleveland.
WHEN: Through Saturday, Nov. 2. Special midnight show Saturday, Oct. 26; special Halloween show Thursday, Oct. 31.
TICKETS & INFO: $15. 440-941-0458 or www.blankcanvastheatre.com