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a true crime musical 


"I have been closely following the shows at Cookeville’s Backdoor Playhouse (BDPH) for 15 years, and I may have just witnessed their best production ever."

-Andrew William Smith,
Teacher on the Radio
link to full review

Years after her interviews with infamous killer John Wayne Gacy, renowned forensic psychologist Dr. Judy Matthewson remains haunted by the investigation. She has dedicated her career to studying the origins of violence and abuse as related to the human brain- spent years exploring the depths of human cruelty, scientifically detached. But to her, John's story represents something different- an impassable abyss. The Doctor, a survivor of abuse, believes this long-closed case still holds secrets and hidden answers among its wreckage.


Convinced she missed something during those initial interviews, she returns to memories of her time with John. His narrative conjures visions of his difficult childhood, adult life, murders, and arrest, blurring the line between reality and her psyche.  On the one hand, John presents as a family man, community leader, outgoing neighbor, and part-time clown known for hosting elaborate yard parties. On the other hand, he is a troubled and violent criminal, claiming to suffer from a multiple personality disorder. Answers don't come easily.

As the Doctor delves dangerously deeper, exposure to John's dark and disturbing tale forces her to face ghosts from her own past. Crawlspace embarks on a mind-bending odyssey through the shadowy depths of the human mind, exploring the enigmatic edges of sanity, the risks of true crime obsession, and the lasting legacies of abuse.

​​The show is in two acts. It is designed for a minimum casting of 18 performers (13 main roles/ five supporting) or with full casting of 22 performers (13 main/ 9 supporting). For smaller companies, an ensemble version is available that utilizes a special doubling scheme, requiring as few as 14 actors. The music is orchestrated for piano, keyboard (synth), guitar, cello, bass, drum set, and auxiliary percussion. Fully produced rehearsal/performance tracks are also available.

The running time is 135 minutes.

Crawlspace is based on the story of a convicted serial killer. Although drawn from his own words and the public record of his life and crimes, this is a work of historical fiction. Certain names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. Fictional characters have been added, and liberties have been taken that differentiate this work from the true-life events.  


Crawlspace was premiered on November 3, 2022 by the Tech Players of Tennessee Tech University under the direction of Mark H. Creter. The musical was further developed throughout 2023 with the assistance of the Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga (Garry Posey, director/ John Thomas McCecil, musical director), culminating in the show's second full production.

Crawlspace: A True Crime Musical
Ⓒ 2020 Glickstein & Spraggins
all rights reserved- including public performance.

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