Silence! The Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of the Silence of the Lambs - Theatre Review

By Stana Milanovich

Clarice dances with the Lambs! (from left) Tyler Marcum, Suzanne Slade, Amanda Conlon, Philip McBride in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL.
Tyler Marcum, Suzanne Slade, Amanda Conlon, Philip McBride in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL.
Photo by Peter Flanigan

The playful, fun-loving musical about murder and cannibalism you never knew you wanted, Silence! The Musical is certainly seasonally appropriate and generally a good time. Yes, you never knew you were longing for a parody of Silence of the Lambs, but Silence! heard the tiny bleat deep in your heart and delivered a fevered dream of dancing sheep, raunchy songs, and weirdness, based around the loving advice of a cannibal, a lisping, ambitious FBI trainee, and a serial killer with...issues. Let us be perfectly frank, this is not the play for everyone. It helps to like Silence of the Lambs enough that you're willing to poke fun at it. It helps to be willing to hear songs perhaps best described as bawdy and thus be of age to do so. Just sit down, listen to the expertly curated pre-show musical selections, pick up a nice Chianti and a cookie (in lieu of fava beans) and expand your capacity to listen to fat jokes (admittedly, it exceeded mine). will be okay.

Jesse Merlin and Amanda Conlon
Jesse Merlin and Amanda Conlon.
Photo by Peter Flanigan

If you've had the misfortune of never seeing Silence of the Lambs, relax and let's go over the basics (spoilers: dodge to the paragraph below to escape). An FBI trainee, Clarice Starling, is set up to inquire with fearsome cannibal prisoner and former psychologist, Dr. Hannibal Lector, about the newest serial killer in town, Buffalo Bill, who murders and skins large women. Clarice's nascent interactions with Hannibal are accelerated when Bill kidnaps a Senator's daughter. Hannibal uses the surrounding media storm to manipulate an escape while giving one last clue to Clarice. Despite her hard efforts Clarice seems exiled from the final capture but stumbles upon Bill in his lair and has to survive and rescue all on her own. Rescuing the Senator's daughter puts to rest her own demons, and Clarice goes about graduating to full agent, while Hannibal exacts revenge on his former captor. This, of course, leaves out all the juicy, meaty bits which have been converted to song and stage by Silence!

It's live music and a mostly bare stage for this musical, whose key innovation is the Greek chorus/herd of sheep who lead the characters and audience through the tale with the rhythmic skills of their clapping hooves and adorably fuzzy tails and ears. At one minute holding up hallway notices like ring card girls, in the next doing interpretive dance to what is simultaneously the best and possibly most offensive love song, they are a constant source of delight and enliven the play whenever they're in motion.

Nick Dothée as Buffalo Bill.
Nick Dothée as Buffalo Bill.
Photo by Peter Flanigan

Not that it needs much enlivening. Silence! moves forward at a fast clip from the casual sexism of the academy and introduction of Amanda Conion in the character of Clarice whose exaggerated lisp thankfully tacks down a bit after the first moments. Her best song is the ode to ambition, "It's Agent Shtarling", a clear take on Chicago with the Lambs doing their best Fosse dancers behind her. Things truly pick up with the introduction of Jesse Merlin's Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The famous glass scene is brought out to less impact on stage, but his song of...interest...for Clarice, "I'd Like to Smell Your (Deleted Anatomy Part)" is pure brilliance. Hannibal's interest, echoed in the interpretive love dance of the Lambs, is fortunately played straight, subsequently intensely hilarious, and frankly almost outweighs the rest of the show, barring his "It's Me" escape song. Nick Dothee as Buffalo Bill manages to duplicate the uneasy, slimy core of the character, and his all-out reveal of nothing at the end of the song "I'd F@ck Me" is a perfect ode to the original and delightfully brave. Julie Ouelliette brings cheery good fun to the key victim Catherine as well as her asides in the Lamb chorus. In a musical with incredibly sterling singing performances, her duet with Bill, "Put the F@cking Lotion in the Basket", is the only place where those performances feel slightly off, perhaps a fault in the musical balance, given how strong her singing was otherwise and the performances in general. Nick Dothée and Amanda Conlon
Nick Dothée and Amanda Conlon
Photo by Peter Flanigan
Speaking of which, two standout vocal performances are Susanne Slade as Senator Martin whose song and performance of "My Daughter is Catherine" is seriously pause-the-show ovation worthy, and Courtney Ardelia's ode to underestimating is just good plain fun. Yes, obviously the songs are trivial and wonderfully silly, but the entire cast sings them with pure commitment and an almost surprising amount of high-quality talent. Judged purely on vocals, this version of Silence! knocks your socks off. The final showdown between Bill and Clarice misses the exemplary misdirection of the movie but captures the energy and the green-lit night vision fun very well.

Yeah, it won't change your life. Sure, it's a bit childishly offensive. But oh, it is well performed and a good time if you're looking for something fun and different. Go on, silence that bleating and scratch the itch you didn't know you had with a ticket to this production before time runs out.

Silence! the Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of Silence of the Lambs features music & lyrics by Jon Kaplan & Al Kaplan, book by Hunter Bell, and was directed and choreographed by Amanda Conlon with musical direction by Edgar Cardoso.  

Silence! the Musical runs through Nov 3 at the Let Live Theatre at the Actors Company, 916 N Formosa Ave, Los Angeles.  

Posted By Stana Milanovich on October 26, 2018 04:30 pm | Permalink