Capital Fringe Review: “The Snuff Musical’ by Maddie Gaw

They’ll make anything into a musical these days. Well, not just anything. Any movie gets a musical these days. If all future movie-based musicals are half as clever as The Snuff Musical, then we might be in good shape.

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This is a self-aware and biting satire about the perceived current state of musical theatre, and the lengths people will go to achieve artistic success. Daniel Hawthorne (Josh Kemper) and Joey Bortz (Amanda Spellman) are a musical producing team whose creative output has all but dried up. After constantly striking out while trying to pitch the last musical he did write (“History is boring!” potential investors say), Daniel is unexpectedly inspired by a nasty little snuff film screened at a pretentious art party. Daniel is convinced this will be the last word on movie-based musicals. Joey is skeptical, but is desperate to make the show a hit. I don’t want to give away too much else, but The Snuff Musical gleefully rips backstage tropes apart, like the small-town ingénue moving to the Big City to be a star and Eve Harrington-esque role sabotage. The plot, as it unfolds, gets a little convoluted and confusing by the end, but I enjoyed myself every step of the way.

None of the characters stretch past two dimensions (if that), but they don’t particularly have to. Kemper and Spellman are great at playing put-upon struggling artists, forced to be the straight men in a world of batshit crazy. The snark at all the weirdos who come through their door, including Senor Dread (PJ Mitchell), the creepy but hilariously enthusiastic death fetishist who directed the original film, and Kelly Kincaid (Leslie Vincent), whose absolute lack of talent is eclipsed by her unshakeable confidence. As the budding starlet from Ohio, Vincent effectively steals the show in her quest to be a leading lady. The Snuff Musical is worth seeing just for Kelly’s masterful butchering of Shakespeare.

Michael Martin’s score had a pretty decent Broadway pop sound. Particular highlights are “Another Boy Meets Girl,” a hilariously glib account of the snuff film’s three minute running time, and Vincent’s introduction, “Kelly’s Big Pair (Of Songs).” Each cast member was a first-rate singer, and made sure that the punch lines were never lost under the music. As a lyricist and playwright, Martin exercised a wickedly funny sensibility. A master of double entendre and suggestion, he piles layers and layers of jokes in songs like “Get It In The End” and Kelly’s phone calls to her pedophilic uncle.

As the opening numbers says, The Snuff Musical is the “best possible worst kind of taste.” And I like it!

Running Time: 90 minutes.

The Snuff Musical plays through July 28, 2013 at Fort Fringe –Redrum – 612 L Street NW, in Washington DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe Page.


2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘The Snuff Musical’ by Derek T. Pickens

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Maddie Gaw
Maddie Gaw grew up in suburban Maryland, where she was a frequent audience member at local high school productions before she overcame the shyness that kept her off the stage. She re-located to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College, concentrating in theatre arts after initially abandoning theatre for the much more profitable field of historical studies. A big supporter of new play development, Maddie is proud of her work as Literary Manager for the Downstage Theatre Company, where she gave slots to two plays written within the last five years, and one premiere production. Having graduated in May, Maddie squints into the post-grad distance as she returns to the D.C. area, looking for work in arts administration, or any place that will support her habit as a full-time suffering writer and part-time suffering theatre artist. Her rants and musings outside the purview of reviews can be found on her website,


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