Jack the Chipper | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jack the Chipper 

JACK THE CHIPPER, Black 'n' Blue Productions, at the Greenview Arts Center. An uneasy amalgam of dark humor and eco humor, this silly new musical purports to savage corporate greed. An amoral recycling firm, Composting Resources for a Prettier Planet, links its marketing campaign to the title character's serial killings: by feeding his corpses into a mulcher, he perversely helps the firm sell its stuff.

It scarcely matters if we never learn the identity of their spokeskiller. Clumsy, hackneyed, and riddled with stereotypes, this rip-off of Sweeney Todd and Little Shop of Horrors triggers little curiosity and punishes patience. Its one-joke plot has been inflated into two acts and crammed with songs that clutter when they don't confuse. And after writer Nancy Crist sets up her sardonic situation she takes it nowhere, never earning the cheap, cynical put-downs the script delivers as regularly as David Letterman. When the single kind creature, Hillary, is framed for murder and nearly pureed as part of a "compost a convict" plan, there's nothing to justify the gratuitous nastiness.

But Mark Hollmann's melodies almost save the show. Crying out for a better story are numbers like the rousing "Gospel of Green," the bubbly "Worm Song," the complex chorale "Hillary on My Mind," and even the fight-song parody "Win One for the Chipper." Andrew Frank's high-velocity staging exhausts itself trying to spark a story that chases its tail. Cathleen Sperling brings dignity to Hillary, but any depth has been shredded by the script.

--Lawrence Bommer

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