Cthulhu: The Musical: “This is Not Your Kid’s Puppet Show” Musical Horror Extravaganza at Buffalo Iron Works (Podcast Included)

After sold-out performances all over the west coast, Puppeteers for Fears, Oregon’s only dedicated puppet musical horror troupe, will bring its original show, Cthulhu: the Musical!, to Buffalo for a performance on June 24 at Buffalo Iron Works as part of the company’s 2024 summer tour. When describing the process of making the show, Josh Gross, Artistic Director for Puppeteers for Fears, said “It’s like Fugazi, if they were a puppet theater group.”

Gross never thought that the theater would be his calling. He thought he would have a career as a musician, and dreamed of being in a rock’n’roll band. Deeply passionate about the energy and communal experience of loud, sweaty rock shows, he found the traditional theater experience “dusty and boring” – a sentiment he still holds to some extent. “Our goal with Puppeteers for Fears, is really to try to give theater the jolts and energy of a rock’n’roll show. So you go to see it and you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, this is fun. This is like everything that I felt theater wasn’t.’  We call it theater for people who didn’t realize they liked theater… because they’ve never been given a reason to like it before. Or a rock’n’roll show for people who felt that maybe they’ve aged out of going to a sweaty dance party, and they want something they can sit down to experience.”  

The show is performed by a cast that operates custom puppets, supported by a live rock band. “We have a puppet house, and then the band is kind of in the wings, so you can see it. It’s kind of like our version of an orchestra pit… it has that whole rock show element to it, but also sometimes people will say ‘watching the band crack up is how you know the actors have tossed the script out, and have done something else altogether.’ We’ve tended to recruit really talented improv comedy artists. The show is supposed to be two hours. In Seattle one time, it went three, because they just added so much to the script. That was definitely way too much…[The puppeteers] veer off topic, off script all the time. You can usually tell by how much I’m cracking up.” 

The plot of the musical is adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s 1929 short story The Call of Cthulhu. It tells the tale of Cthulhu, a colossal, malevolent, octopus-faced elder god who hibernates beneath the ocean, influencing and driving humans insane through their dreams. Lovecraft, often hailed as the father of gothic horror, crafted creatures and themes that have significantly influenced modern literature. 

The inspiration for Cthulhu: The Musical! came from Gross’s playful habit of adding “the musical” to various phrases to gauge reactions. When he first mentioned Cthulhu: The Musical, the enthusiastic response convinced him of the concept’s potential, despite the daunting challenge of adapting such a dark story into a comedy. “We are always looking to turn classic themes on their head instead of rehashing tired storylines,” said Gross.

The production, however, is decidedly for adults.  “I do like to make sure that people are aware that, like, this is a puppet show, but it is not intended as a kids show, ” said Gross, adding,

Jim Henson talked a lot about the concept of puppet bias. In a lot of the rest of the world, puppets are really seen as just a theatrical medium, but here in America is really seen as like a children’s medium, and that is a thing that you have to overcome if you’re trying to make anything a little more sophisticated. 

WNY Soundstage
Puppet Horror Rocks Buffalo Iron Works with Original Musical. Interview with Josh Gross, Puppeteers for Fears



Download file | Play in new window | Duration: 00:33:31 | Recorded on June 10, 2024

The production is directed by Katy Curtis, with a script and original songs by Josh Gross. Visual artist and Production Designer Aubry Hollingshead provides the multimedia backgrounds and the cast includes Hunter Prutch, Alyssa Marie Mathews, Alex Giorgi, Owen Webb, and Forest Gilpin. 

Puppeteers For Fears Presents: Cthulhu: The Musical on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Buffalo Iron Works. Doors open at 7:00 PM.  Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 on the day of the show, and are available here

The post Cthulhu: The Musical: “This is Not Your Kid’s Puppet Show” Musical Horror Extravaganza at Buffalo Iron Works (Podcast Included) appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *