Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Step right up, sinners, and see what awaits you inside the new musical project from two of the madmen behind Repo! The Genetic Opera, who are taking us all straight to hell – this time with The Devil’s Carnival.
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Terrance Zdunich, The Devil’s Carnival follows three wayward “sinners” who are new to Lucifer’s (Zdunich, who also stars) carnival: There’s grieving father John (Flanery), who commits suicide; naïve bad boy magnet Tamara (Lowndes), who ends up on the wrong side of her abusive boyfriend’s revolver; and professional thief Ms. Merrywood (Evigan), who gets caught in a deadly shoot-out with police when a robbery goes wrong.
Once they arrive in Hell, the trio’s sins are revealed to all as Lucifer and his cronies have some fun with the new arrivals at the Carnival and expose their faults through various “lessons” that also tie in to the vast collection of Aesop’s Fables that Lucifer himself seems to fancy reading aloud to a youngster named Daniel (Tillman Norsworthy).
Inside Lucifer’s Big Top we meet a vast array of colorful characters throughout the one-hour running time, including the mysterious Painted Doll (Autumn), the sage Ticket Keeper (Callie) tasked with keeping track of all 666 rules of Lucifer’s realm, the fiercely stoic Tamer (Crahan, or “Clown” from Slipknot as he’s known) who lets his whip do all the talking, the chameleon-like character known as The Twin (Ogre of Skinny Puppy fame), the wicked bad boy of the carnival called The Scorpion (Senter), the often overlooked Magician (Moseley) and the balls-out wacky Wick (Vega) and her Woe-Maidens.
And of course there’s Paul Sorvino as a quiet doll maker who gets quite a surprise at the end when Lucifer decides to shake up the balance between Heaven and Hell a bit.
That may seem like an awful lot of characters to squeeze into an hour-long project; yet, somehow Bousman masterfully manages to keep the story and pace swift and frenetic, allowing everyone a chance to shine in The Devil’s Carnival. As Lucifer, though, Zdunich really comes into his own; while he may have won fans over worldwide with his portrayal of Graverobber in Repo!, it’s here where as a performer Zdunich seems to be more confident, and his command over every scene is astonishing to behold. It’s a role he seems born to play (which is not meant to be an insult by any stretch- Zdunich just embraces this role and it shows), and hopefully it’s one he’ll get the opportunity to tackle again down the road if The Devil’s Carnival becomes the breakout success it’s destined for once the right audiences discover it.
The music of The Devil’s Carnival, which was crafted by Zdunich and Saar Hendelman, is truly the heart and soul of this project, and every number weaves together so beautifully that (sorry to steal the film’s catchphrase here) you can’t help but fall…in love with every single note. While there were a few songs that kind of lagged slightly in Repo!, The Devil’s Carnival ends as strongly as it begins, which is a difficult task in the world of cinematic musicals (hell, even Rocky Horror Picture Show has a few “lesser” songs). Fans of Repo! will undoubtedly love the music here, and the non-Repo! fans out there should definitely appreciate the leap forward that everyone has taken creatively since their last musical endeavor.
As a director (and ringmaster of sorts), it feels like Bousman has found his creative home with The Devil’s Carnival; his approach seems more focused and enthusiastic on this project than fans have ever really seen from his work before, and the maverick spirit of what Bousman et al have created here is subversive and infectious and makes for a truly magical experience at the theater.
The Devil’s Carnival is currently being shown as part of a Road Show experience throughout the US and Toronto over the next several weeks; it’s a project that’s made to be enjoyed with a large audience so definitely try to track it down if it happens to roll through your town in the coming weeks.
4 out of 5