Saw The Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of Saw begins with a picture perfect recreation of the disgusting bathroom from the first movie in the iconic horror franchise. Then the puppet (Billy) shows up, wishing us a hearty “Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome.” (Note: this review has spoilers for Saw the movie as well as Saw The Musical.)
The show is impressively done with a cast of three (with the exception of Detective Tapp, played via voiceover by Donnel Johnson). Danny Durr plays Gordon and Zepp, Adam Parbhoo plays Adam and Gordon’s daughter Diana, and on opening night Gabrielle Goodman played Amanda, Ali and Jigsaw. Goodman in particular stands out with a lovely voice and excellent dance skills, but all three turn in solid performances. (Durr’s wig is so good it deserves its own program credit.)
The plot of the musical is the same as the movie: there’s a serial killer on the loose called Jigsaw, and he sets traps for people to see what they’ll do in order to get out alive. For example: there’s a timed bear trap on your face that will snap your jaw, but you can get out if you dig the key out of a dead person’s stomach. (In the movie the person is still alive; the musical ditches this detail, somewhat to our detriment. Plus the entire scene happens offstage, robbing us of some Titus Andronicus-level gore.) As in the movie, the show starts with two people, Gordon (Durr) and Adam (Parbhoo) chained up in a bathroom. They gradually find out more information about why they are there and what they can do to get out.
There’s a moment about three-quarters of the way through the show when it hits the highs you were hoping for. When Ali fights back against Zepp (Jigsaw’s accomplice), she declares, “Mommy has to pull some unexplained combat skills out of her ass.” Anyone who has seen the movie knows exactly what she’s talking about, where a mousy mom suddenly beats the crap out of a murderer. The song, “Fight Night”, includes some delicious fight choreography, credited to Dan Renkin. The choreography in general, by director Stephanie Rosenberg, is extremely creative and fun.
Right after that number is when Gordon decides to cut off his foot to escape the chains, singing a song called “Saw Right Through” (“Is that your fucking bone?/Gotta reach that phone”) that brings the house down while blood splatters everywhere (including, according to the website, the first row). This number is true musical horror parody and it’s glorious.
The lighting design by Sheridan Glover is good except for a couple of times when the stage is too dark. The set, by Sibling Sets, is terrific, as is the puppet design by Julia Darden.
The show is recommended for ages 16+ for “mature content”; the book (by Zoe Ann Jordan) and lyrics (by Anthony De Angelis and Patrick Spencer, who also handled the music) include a large helping of gay sex jokes (the leads are gay in this version which doesn’t always work) and a weird John Waters-esque moment where the two leads fling fecal matter at each other.
At 110 minutes, it’s too long, and although Goodman sings them well, Amanda’s songs could be cut for time, along with perhaps “Pig in a Wig.” The catchiest number is “Onco-la-la-la-logist”, nicely sung by Durr and the rest of the company, and a tango with a sex doll is clever, unique, and the right kind of tasteless. Overall, the show is a bizarre, goofy romp that is likely to find an audience among late night theatergoers who love camp and a little bit of blood.
Saw The Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of Saw (extended through June 2024)
Performing Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays
AMT Theater, 345 West 45th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.SawtheMusical.com
Running time: 110 minutes without an intermission