By Bob Evans
What could be a better way to spend a cool October night (or early November night) than watching a Halloween slasher movie? But, even better yet, go see it live with music an over the top cast of locals who are guaranteed to make you laugh–a lot–while you swill beer and enjoy Forrest Attaway’s demented musical, “Chainsaw,” now playing at Kansas City’s Arts Asylum.
Attaway crafted the piece, complete with music and originally presented it at The Living Room about two years ago. After some trimming, a larger stage to work, and some other tweaks, the musical graces the Arts Asylum stage with most of the original cast repairing their roles.
The cult-classic movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre served up fodder for Attaway’s creative juices as he wanted to create something new in the musical theater genre, and what could serve him better than a slice and dice horror story akin to “Little Shop of Horrors” only with more blood and guts? Attaway’s musical fit that mold to perfection. The show would create a new generation of theater-goers if played throughout college town circuits.
As a matter of fact, “Grease” began that way as it developed and moved toward its own fame. As a college student in the late 1960s, I missed the opportunity to see “Grease” when it came to The University of Kansas for a Friday and Saturday run as it was making the college circuit, long before it began a run to Broadway and became a long-running stage musical and later a movie. That idea of some regional production could loom in the future for Attaway’s hit. College students would flock to the shows if made available to them. It’s a great plan, worthy of a trial and hopeful success.
The story is timeless foolery as a Texas couple births a freak and his story begins. Twisted, mentally challenged, imprisoned, abused and tormented, Joey’s life has no focus until he discovers a chainsaw…and from then on…watch out.
In “Chainsaw” incredibly stupid people , make incredibly stupid choices and land in incredibly stupid situations, leading to incredibly stupid deaths. Isn’t that the mantra of all horror flick characters. Their vapid decisions lead to their demise. The characters almost beg for someone to end their stupid lives as soon as possible. And, so, a madman with a chainsaw, in a desolate Texas town discovers a carload of stupid college students begging to become his next victim. What could be better suited for Halloween?
An overview of the plot is unnecessary to say the least. Like the movie, an insane freak goes on a killing spree. After an unloving start in life, mental illness, and abuse, Joey finds loving fulfillment in torturing others. It’s the Frankenstein monster unleashed and continually mistreated and shunned, but in modern day Texas. The rest of the play continues until, like a Shakespearean tragedy, all die. So, too, may the audience…with laughter and beer.
Nothing goes better with a horror musical than beer. And Attaway knows that and offers the audience to partake of free beer to loosen the laughter. Attaway wants the audience to laugh and enjoy the show from start to finish. His cast is ready to entertain and the fun begins when the band starts. The “Chainsaw” cast all create fun characters awaiting their tragic deaths and almost begging for Joey to end their empty lives. Not one of the cast fails in creating enjoyable characters.
Expect the entire cast to entertain you as the play progresses. Attaway wrote the characters in such a way that all characters play important parts in the show. They depict stereotypical horror characters, but each has a definite personality and place in the story. There are no throw-away characters in this piece. Even though this is a musical/comedy, there are no small or insignificant parts. Each actor creates a character that moves the piece forward.
Sister Squirrel and her trio of foxes narrate the story and set the absurd tone. Laura Jacobs and Mike Ott create the abnormality of Joey, a child born at full adult-height, and the story begins.
The cast is: Molliann McCulley, Casey Jane, Rebecca Munoz, Dashawn Young, Mike Ott, Laura Jacobs, Katie Gilchrist, Bob Linebarger, Francisco Javier Villegas, Jamie Anne Turner, Marek Burns, Natalie Magill, Sebastian Smith, Thomas Delgado. The band is Chris Holbrook, Mark Johnson, Sean Hogge, Stephanie Shelton. The production team is: Missy Koonce, Jonathan Robertson, Art Kent, Afton Earp, Taryn Eby, Shon Ruffin.
“Chainsaw-the Musical” continues at 8 p.m. at Kansas City’s Arts Asylum. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
Tags: Arts Asylum, “Chainsaw-the Musical”, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Halloween, Kansas City Comedy