The Butcher Boy runs through September 11 at the Irish Repertory Theatre.
By Elazar Abrahams
Based on Patrick McCabe’s 1992 novel of the same name, The Butcher Boy is about as original a stage musical you can make while still being tied to an existing property. The two-act show follows Francie Brady, a troubled Irish teen who begins to psychotically spiral when tragedy hits his family. He begins to have visions of humanoid pigs, inspired by the unseemly nickname the townsfolk give him. Francie tries to run away and escape the cycle of abuse he’s caught in, but that only works for so long, eventually propelling the story to its demented conclusion. All this with song and dance!
Somewhere in The Butcher Boy is a phenomenal show, but unfortunately it gets bogged down by shoddy pacing and tunes that need to be work-shopped. Sitting in the audience, you can feel the makings of something great, but the material is not quite there yet. The point intermission is placed feels slightly off, and the beginning of both halves severely drag their feet with exposition. The musical motifs and core lyrics feel cliche and clunky at points, and while always difficult, the tone struggles to find itself. Scenes are far too serious to be a dark comedy, but there’s an oddly exhibited levity present that avoids true grit. Still, there is obvious talent here, and hopefully this successful off-Broadway run will lead to future productions that have been tinkered with and improved.
Speaking of talent, the cast is excellent. It can’t be easy to put on such a violent show every night, but Nicholas Barasch is superb as the lead, and really carries the show. At a certain point, Francie becomes an unsympathetic character, but you still care for him, and understand his journey. The other standouts are Daniel Marconi as the fiendishly unlikable Phillip Nugent, and Scott Stangland as Francie’s father. Stangland gets the best song of the whole affair, a rousing solo about love and loss that ends with quite the twist.
Another strong point is the set design and costumes. The vibes and imagery are creepy, and genuinely unsettling. The pig masks that become the show’s central imagery are properly spooky and sear themselves into your imagination. Although The Butcher Boy is a mixed bag, it successfully enthralls. Don’t be surprised if you end up squirming in your seat.
Find ticket information HERE.