This review of M. Zachary Johnson's The Can Opener: A Brief Horror Musical at The Kraine Theater was written by John Michael Koroly and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
The Can Opener: A Brief Horror Musical
M. Zachary Johnson - Writer & Composer
Kenneth Oefelein - Director
The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street, NYC)
Reviewed 2/24/15 at 7:10 p.m.
"The Can Opener: A Brief Horror Musical" was recently featured as part of the 2015 Frigid New York Theater Festival. I regret to report that it proved to be a rather amateurish attempt at...what? Satire? Sweet homage? Sly commentary? It's really never clear what composer/lyricist M. Zachary Johnson intends here.
Ostensibly, the show is about a girl, Bobbi, in her late teens whose overactive dream life is taking over her waking life. (But IS it just a dream life? This is never made clear.) She enjoys the company of an imaginary friend: a hunky, attractive young man named Apollo. However, as soon as Apollo leaves, she is besieged by "zombies" who terrify her with songs about brain-eating and the like. Her parents are eager to get her off to college and there is some baffling dialogue over breakfasts about a string of murders in the neighborhood that might really be serial suicides. Again, none of this makes very much sense; least of all the scenes with Bobbi finally entering college and being consumed by a conformist environment, to the final tableau of her taking a hammer and chisel to her own head. It's all a confusing clutter of ideas.
Johnson's music never rises above the routine. His melodies in numbers such as "My Life Is Small But Cheerful," "Boy, Is This Weird," and "It's Time To Send You Away, Former Friend" are neither catchy in a conventional sense, nor daring in any thematic way. The score is supposed to drive the action along. Here, it just sits there, inert. Kenneth Oefelein's direction isn't any more inspired. At times, the blocking suggested a reasonably competent high school production. The Kraine's stage space is, I grant you, tiny, but it could have been exploited more imaginatively.
The cast was of widely varying degrees of quality, with Sharon Lam's Bobbi likable enough, eventually winning our empathy. Jesse Corbin's Apollo was suitably magnetic. Kevin Tucker as the father and Rose Marie Rupley as the mother, however, were of very uneven voice; Tucker going off note several times. Meghan Pulles and Andrew Blair made for some enjoyably quirky zombies, though.
The title reference to a can opener, by the way, is never explained nor implied that I could tell.