Generally, I am not a fan of musicals, on film or stage. Those that I do enjoy rely on farce and/or transgressive themes to keep me entertained. With the recent surge in “horror movies turned musicals,” (i.e. Evil Dead and Re-Animator) the fear is that they will lose their transgressive-ness and novelty. There is no worry of that with Silence! The Musical.
Silence! The Musical is the song-and-dance version of Silence of the Lambs. Following the 1991 film very closely, the play sees FBI trainee Clarice Starling brought in to work with cannibalistic sociopath, Dr. Hannibal Lecter in tracking down psychopath-at-large Buffalo Bill. Sounds like the perfect setting for hilarity, doesn’t it? Well it is. Christine Lakin’s Clarice is dead-on, mastering Jodie Foster’s slurred drawl and wide-eyed faux-naiveté. It would have been funny had it not been so true. Davis Gaines’s Hannibal Lecter has a bit more levity than Anthony Hopkins’s but it is a sly levity that he delivers with a knowing wink to the audience.
The other stars here are the lambs. Silence! The Musical has a chorus of singing, dancing lambs (low-budget lambs; the company dresses in black and pins on lamb ears and gloves). When I first saw Silence of the Lambs, I was 12 years old and didn’t understand at the time why there weren’t any lambs in the movie. The 12 year old in me was pleased by the literal representation.
Clearly, Silence! The Musical does not have the budget that its Academy Award-winning film had, or even that a Broadway show has, but that doesn’t negate the quality of the performance. I was especially impressed with the staging. A few moveable screens and some desks are the only sets, but you hardly realize that because they are used skillfully and their movements are so perfectly choreographed that they almost become characters. The company - each of whom plays a number of roles (and will let the audience know when they are in a new role!) - is quite impressive. They have a lot of great singers and dancers among them (including Jeff Hiller, LaToya London, Karl Warden, Jesse Merlin, and Kathy Deitch) and all are “in” on the joke. I guess it is hard to be too serious when you are performing songs like “Put the Fucking Lotion in the Basket,” “Are You About a Size 14?” and “If I Could Smell her Cunt” (complete with a classical ballet accompaniment.)
Silence! The Musical is transgressive, hilarious, and entertaining. I had more fun with this show than with almost any Broadway-bound show.