SILENCE! The Musical

Years ago, I heard about a filthy, sarcastic musical parody of “The Silence of the Lambs” and downloaded some of the songs. I was horrified and delighted, and always thought it was a shame that I never got to see the show during its very short production run.

This past weekend, I finally got the chance to see it produced live onstage, and I have to tell you… I was completely unprepared for it.

Now, it’s important to note that I LOVED the original film, the book that inspired it, and the series of additional Hannibal/Clarice novels. So I approached the musical parody with some degree of fascinated trepidation, afraid that the show might diminish my memory of the film. I’m relieved to share that it didn’t — if anything, I walked away with an even greater appreciation for the nuances of the movie.

Like most parodies, SILENCE! gleefully lampoons memorable aspects of the original work. FBI trainee Clarice Starling is shown here with a thicker accent, a bit of a speech impediment, and some serious ever-present Daddy issues. Hannibal is creepy and menacing, with an inexplicable charm and sophistication. “Buffalo Bill” is bumbling and disturbing.

And everyone else is just plain silly.

No really, pretty much every other character is shown only in terms of the most ridiculous nuances of their character. The senator’s daughter is made to seem flighty and absurdly redneck-ish. The head of the asylum is almost completely reduced to his one clumsy attempt to flirt with Agent Starling. And Clarice’s roommate has an entire musical number highlighting the fact that the character had only one memorable line in the entire film.

The leads were, by and large, good. I did think that the actress playing Agent Starling sometimes hammed up her accent and country-bumpkin goofiness a little more than was necessary, but whether that was the actress’s choice or the director’s wasn’t readily apparent. The actor playing Hannibal Lecter was quite simply phenomenal — dead-on impression of the film portrayal, while adding in just the right amount of sly humor.

What impressed me most about all of the actors, frankly, was how they incorporated the tiniest details from the film. I mentioned my amusement that many of the smaller roles seemed focused on little nuances, but frankly I found that to be a good thing. Pretty much every actor up there grabbed pieces of the film portrayal and either mimicked them dead-on, or made fun of them with joyful abandon.

As for the rest of the production: The songs are funny — though you must be okay with crude and raunchy humor to enjoy many of them, especially the longest musical number of the show (which is entitled, “If I Could Smell Her Cunt”) — and the dance numbers are surprisingly good. The chorus is cute and charming. The set is cleverly designed around a small stage and a presumably small budget, though the end result is satisfying.

Granted, this is not a show that’s going to change your life or inspire a love of the stage. You’ll definitely laugh, you’ll cringe at times, you’ll hide your face in your hands for a moment and wonder, “Did they really just do that?” And of course, you’ll probably relive fond memories of an excellent book and movie.

If you’re in New York City while SILENCE! The Musical is still running, definitely go see it. Have a drink or two beforehand, ask me for a code for discounted tickets, and be prepared to hum (and accidentally sing out loud) some crazy songs for hours and days to come.

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