Inspired by the 2009 Dutch horror film The Human Centipede, Synergy Production Co. has given us a musical parody featuring the same characters. Like the movie, it concerns a deranged German surgeon – Dr Heiter – who kidnaps three tourists and conjoins them surgically, mouth to anus … I kid you not. Dr Heiter is renowned for separating Siamese twins, but is drawn to the decidedly dark side – to the polar opposite. The narrative unfolds as a borok that a grandfather reads to his ill grandson, traumatising him.
A bizarre storyline. Absolutely, but it is played strictly for laughs and hijinks abound. The mad scientist gives Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show a run for his money with his nefarious plan and execution (if you pardon the pun). Among those caught up in the web when their car breaks down are gal pals Lindsay and Jenny. Again, think Brad and Janet from Rocky Horror. The Human Centipede Parody Musical has been written by Liam Hartley and Oliver Catton. The composer and musical director is Thomas Currie.
Some of the turns of phrase are a devilish delight and there are gems among the 18 musical numbers. Beau Wharton is commanding in the lead role. He plays Dr Heiter as delightfully off handed and is charismatic and assured. As Lindsay, Isabel Lanigan has a beautiful, pure and rounded voice and is the standout vocally, bringing gravitas to her scenes. Georg Gleeson has fun milking the dumb blonde stereotype as Jenny.
Jacob Kuek has his moments to shine, as the initially naïve and trusting Katsuro, another caught up in Dr Heiter’s fiendish plot, and as the sick grandson. Oliver Catton makes an immediate impression as a truckie taking a leak. He has further impact in the show as a German Good Samaritan and as one of the cops investigating strange goings on. Liam Hartley showcases his comic versality as the grandfather and as another detective on the case. Among the musical’s greatest strengths are the chorus numbers, many of which are ear-pleasingly melodic.
My biggest concern was the sound mix, which often missed the mark. The grandfather, who was also the narrator, was all but impossible to hear when he was speaking with the music amped up and it didn’t help that his voice didn’t project. On occasions, similar problems plagued Oliver Catton. The cast mucked in for the scene changes and the movement of the four coloured doors that are the centrepiece of the set was seamless.
The contention is well established and the plot moves along at a decent clip in the first half of the show. That is until we return to the grandfather reading to his grandson, around the midway point. Thereafter, I felt the storyline tended to get bogged down and dragged somewhat. Still, notwithstanding the sound issues, overall I found The Human Centipede Parody Musical outrageous fun. Eighty-five minutes without interval, it is playing at Alex Theatre in St Kilda until 31st October, 2023.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show (Athenaeum Theatre) – musical theatre review
- 50 Shades! A Musical Parody (Alex Theatre) – theatre review
- Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody (Theatre Works) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.