guy stares at girl
Suckadacocka lures in a freak for his carnival. (Photo courtesy of Adam Geraldi)

Cock opera takes Old Montreal

a/Arts & Entertainment/Theatre by

Johnny Legdick is a rock opera about oppression, identity, and above all, a man who has a leg where his penis is supposed to be.Staged by Playwright Hero and written by Jimmy Karamandis, Jonah Carson, Elijah Fisch, Macleod Truesdale, and Tyler Miller, it is certainly the most ridiculous stage production I have ever seen.

The opera tells the story of the titular Johnny Legdick, who, after being sold to the evil Suckadacocka circus (I know), plots an escape with his friends Steve the Steed and Hannah Handvag. Waiting For Godot it is not, nor does it claim to be. The writers possess a near prodigious talent for penis jokes not seen since the Austin Powers movies and unlikely to be replicated in any stage production.

However, let’s not get carried away. In terms of plot and staging, the opera was relatively bare bones. Clocking in at a brisk one-hour runtime, Johnny Legdick gives the audience little time to become emotionally attached to any of its poorly fleshed out characters. Despite being about a man with a leg for a penis, the play can come off surprisingly cliché at times. On the other hand, the play’s short duration actually works to its advantage, as 180 minutes and multiple acts of humour this sophomoric would be nothing short of infuriating, considering the same jokes are repeated over and over again. The opera lasts just long enough not to wear out the shock value of its subject matter.

As for its underlying messages of acceptance and triumph above oppression, the play communicates these in a lighthearted and subtle way. I did have the feeling that some of the societal conventions the play was trying to satirize were lost in its avalanche of low-brow humour, but when the play is about a man with a leg for a penis, heavy-handed social commentary is out of the question.

The unsung heroes of the rock opera are the pit band. Unlike in other productions where the band serves to provide music alone, the pit band in Johnny Legdick almost seemed to serve as a kind of perverted Greek chorus, actively participating in some of the play’s most side-splitting humour. Combine this with some surprisingly catchy songwriting, handled by musical director and acoustic guitarist Macleod Truesdale, and the result is a bouncy and fun bedrock that perfectly suits the play’s crass overtones.

Overall, Johnny Legdick is dumb—because of course it is. Its storytelling and character development features serious creative flaws; its breadth of humour begins and ends with penis jokes. Despite these considerable setbacks, it somehow manages to be entertaining anyway. Admittedly, much of this is down to the sheer absurdity of the concept. The laughs are cheap and the play’s entertainment value is likely to wear off considerably after repeated viewings. However, on a weeknight in January, you could certainly do worse. Lower your brows and don’t be afraid to laugh.

Johnny Legdick will be performed Thursday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 17 at 9 p.m. at Centaur Theatre (453 Saint François-Xavier). Student tickets are $12.50. It also runs from Wednesday, Feb. 12 to Saturday, Feb. 15 at various times at Mainline Theatre (3997 Saint-Laurent). Tickets are $15.