The New York run of Silence! The Musical has just extended for the umpteenth time, until September 2, 2012, and if you don’t know about the funniest, lewdest, most original musical ever, you need to read on. And if you want discounted tickets, half price, Click me.
That’s because, among other reasons, the movie Silence of the Lambs is one of the most chilling films ever made, and will live forever as a classic of its genre. The spellbinding story of serial murderer Hannibal Lector (played in Silence! The Musical by David Garrison) and novice Agent Clarice Starling (a hilarious Jenn Harris) are central to the original’s tension. Starling tries to get his help in finding the new serial killer Buffalo Bill (played by Topher Nuccio) Can a knock-off parody running off Broadway in New York hold its own against the original? To the great delight of both film and theatre buffs, you bet it can. Start your engines, it’s worth a special trip.
The key to Silence! The Musical is, of course, that this is not the movie, but a parody with song and dance added. It is completely unauthorized, and has to be the most successful creation yet for Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan (music and lyrics) and Hunter Bell (book). The writing is witty and true to the story most of the time, and when it veers off it becomes the stuff of belly laughs.
The two lead players – Jenn Harris as Clarice and David Garrison as Hannibal – take the raw material to new heights. They are ably guided by the expert hand of Christopher Gattelli who did both the direction and choreography. Together they create a stage phenomenon that takes us to a world as implausible as the film it spoofs is realistic. The sheep from Clarice’s childhood memories become a Greek chorus, the complicated gender of Buffalo Bill becomes a reason for him break out in song.
The tunes themselves are all in traditional musical format, and the music has depth and melody even as it advances the plot, or drives home a famous line from the film by repeating it over and over.
There is also a delightful and marvelously executed dream sequence by dancers Ashlee Dupre and Callan Bergmann which elaborates on one of the more sexually explicit lines in the movie. The creators of Silence! The Musical carefully observed the film to mine even its smallest details for humor. In fact, it would be a good idea to watch the film again to catch every juicy morsel of their creativity.
Silence! The Musicalactually started as an internet parody and was quite reverential to its source material even as it demolished its stylistic conceits.
Although the sets are simple and functional, the band small, the company and production feels quite big. Silence! The Musical should easily continue its growth as a cult favorite. It is great material for texting, and even crackberry addicts have come to appreciate the true three dimensional, unfiltered joy of live performances. Yes, there are moments in this show that you could actually reach out and touch the actors (if you dare) and they have yet to devise an app that can deliver a live performance. Though it began simply on the internet, like so many other things in real life, the show come out of cyberspace to settle into the East Village. Perhaps it is a hint at the new synergy possible between the real and virtual worlds.
However, this is not a show for wimps, up-tight born-agains or anyone adverse to truly adult, sometimes vulgar, sometimes horrifying language. The words and phrases were all in the original movie. But what happens in Silence! The Musical, is that their constant repetition deflates their crudeness and turns them into delicious irony. Clarice on the phone repeating the F word in response to the news has to be seen to be appreciated. Who knew that a one woman tour-de-farce (sic) could have such humble roots.
The show played this past summer at Theatre 80, reopening in October and is now securely nestled in the middle of the St. Marks theatre district with a run through March. Even during the week before Christmas, the funky digs they occupy in the 9th Space of PS122 was jam packed with eager ticket-buyers ready for a night of song and slick theatricality.
It is probably a combination of heathens and great word of mouth that is driving their success. Time Magazine even named them one of the top ten musicals of the year, while some hidebound critics sniffed at the crassness of it all. With both a great website for the show and its music makers, you can even sample the great score before you see it.
Without pretensions to high art nor to low brow mediocrity, this feisty company occupies a special slot in the theatre world. It’s the kind of show other theatre people and veteran, sometimes jaded theatre-goers seek out. It has the originality and daring that more timid producers simply don’t understand. It packs a powerful punch, and the broader your taste, the greater its rewards. Go see for yourself. It’s the killer musical that deserves to run forever.
Silence! The Musical, The unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs with Music and Lyrics by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, Book by Hunter Bell, Sets based on original design by Scott Pask, Costumes by David Kaley,, Lights by Jeff Croiter, Sound by Cari Casella, Video by Richard H. DiBella, Music Supervisor Mark Hartman, Music Director Brian J. Nash, Directed and Choreographer Christopher Gattelli. Cast: Dr. Hannibal Lecter – David Garrison, Clarice Starling – Jenn Harris, Jaime Gumb, aka “Buffalo Bill”- Topher Nuccio, Dr. Chilton – Harry Bouvy, Ardelia Mapp – Pamela Bob, Sgt. Pembry – Doug Tripp, Jack Crawford – Howard Kaye, Catherine Martin – Lucia Spina, Dream Hannibal – Callan Bergmann, Dream Clarice – Ashlee Dupre. Band: Brian J. Nash, Nate Patten, Dan McMillan. 9th Space at PS 122, New York, NY. Performance Reviewed: Sunday, December 18, 2011. http://www.silencethemusicalnyc.com/