Backdoor Playhouse premieres a killer show

John Wayne Gacy standing over a victim’s body. Photo by Bee Goodman.

What happens when a bunch of thespians listen to true-crime podcasts? They make an infamous story of serial murders into a killer musical. The Backdoor Playhouse is working with playwright Jason Spraggins and composer Matt Glickstien to join the Backdoor Playhouse to premiere their original work Crawlspace: A True-Crime Musical Thriller. 

The show has multiple settings from Gacy’s childhood flashbacks, backyard barbeques and 1970s Chicago, Illinois. The musical derives from the true story of John Wayne Gacy, also known as the Killer Clown. Gacy was famously known for working as a party clown at children’s hospitals and charity events while also standing as a popular figure in the community, until being connected with the disappearance of Robbert Piest, where police found 29 bodies in Gacy’s home. He confessed to dozens of murders and was sentenced to death in 1980.

The Backdoor Playhouse premieres Crawlspace; A True Crime Musical Thriller. Image provided by Backdoor Playhouse.

The Backdoor Playhouse warns of sensitive material and flashing lights as the show covers gruesome retellings of Gacy’s crimes. Despite the rough material, actors and actresses alike made the show pleasant. You will laugh at the jokes and grimace at the horrors. Senior Emma Olson plays Doctor Judith Mattheson, and she belts notes with superior vocals while still showing a sensitive and vulnerable side in the character that allows the audience to question the doctor’s own sanity. All while leading man, Ryan Steele, displays both the scary and scared personalities of Gacy. Steele mentions in the show program that his own family refuses to see the show except one, “You are a good sister, Abbie.”

A young John Wayne Gacy and his father in a flashback. Photo by Bee Goodman.

Using projected images you’ll see glimpses of the real Gacy, photos from crime scenes, and mug shots taken after his arrests. The projections add color and emotion to the already grueling subject and the shadows cast play their own part in the show.  Though space is limited on stage, set designers went above and beyond to guarantee a perfect setting. 

Having already opened on November 3, you can still see the show during the other show times. Performances are at 8pm on November 4 to 12, and additional performances will be held November 10 at 10pm, and November 12 at 2pm. Halloween may be over but you can certainly still get the chills from this incredible show.