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'Cannibal! The Musical' comes to stage

photo courtesy of ROYCE SPARKS
"Cannibal" - Normally, GoWild wouldn't do a story about high school students. But normally, high school students don't put on musical productions of cult films. Check out the "South Park" roots, this weekend at Zuzi's.
By Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 14, 2005
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When "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone wrote the screenplay for "Cannibal! The Musical," they probably never expected for it to be revived. Let alone by high school students. For charity.

However, in August last year, that's just what Ironwood Ridge High School sophomore Zach Singer decided he would do. Nine controversy-plagued months later, that's just what Singer is doing.

"Cannibal" was originally a film about the story of Alferd Packer, who is Colorado's only convicted cannibal. Combine this type of story with singing and dancing, and you can see how Parker and Stone's brand of humor would eventually translate into "South Park."

Although the play is now being performed by Singer's own Declare Productions at Zuzi's theater, the 16-year-old had originally intended the play to be put on by the Ironwood Ridge drama department. Singer revised the script four times to appease school officials, but was eventually told that despite his changes, the play could not be performed on campus.

"The show went from being what would be considered an R rating to a PG or G rating. I cut everything, even implications and innuendos," said Singer.

According to producer Royce Sparks, who is also a sophomore at Ironwood Ridge, the school wanted nothing to do with the play.

"The school has basically refused to have any affiliation with this musical anymore. They paid for the rights and gave us the show. They aren't making us pay them back, they just wanted it off their hands," said Sparks.

Even after "Cannibal! The Musical" was vetoed by the school, Singer and several other students refused to walk away from the project. That's when Sparks' mother, Oksana, offered her assistance as owner and manager of the Matlou Fund. The fund, which is a not-for-profit organization in Botswana, Africa, is completely funding the play. In return, all proceeds from ticket sales will go to the fund.

"There's a story behind the play. It's not so much about filling the house as it is getting money to the cause. This year the fund's mission is sponsoring orphans whose parents have died of AIDS, who are dying of AIDS themselves, to find a new home for the rest of their lives," said Royce Sparks, an actor in the show.

The "humanitarian benefit," as Royce Sparks calls it, is attracting quite a bit of interest. Matt Stone sent Singer a check for $300 to be used to give out promotional tickets. Stone let the students know that he supports them, even though he couldn't be at the performance because he's working on the new season of "South Park."

Jason McHugh, who produced and acted in the film version of "Cannibal! The Musical" has been supportive since the beginning of Singer's quest.

"Back in early August, I noticed there was a way to find out information on how to put on the play on the musical's Web site. I filled out a little form. I had no idea who it was going out to, but I was interested in putting on the play. About a week later, Jason McHugh got back to me. That was pretty exciting," said Singer.

McHugh and Singer exchanged e-mails for several months, and Singer met with McHugh when he was in Los Angeles. McHugh is coming to Tucson, and will be in the audience for all three shows on Saturday.

The controversy-generating play has been edited for the Friday-night show, as well as the first two shows on Saturday. The final show Saturday night will be more true to the film, with gore and obscenities added. Even after leaving the confines of the high school setting, Singer wanted to keep the subject matter family-friendly.

"It's very innocent and campy, and that's the way Trey Parker wrote it. That's what the administration at our school didn't understand. 'Cannibal! The Musical' is written, and meant to be performed, innocently. It implies things, but it's not a terrible in-your-face kind of play," said Singer.

"Cannibal! The Musical" will be performed at Zuzi's Theater located at 738 N. Fifth Ave. The show will run tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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