I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that “Silence: The Musical” was probably a lot cheaper to put together than “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.” I can also pretty much guarantee that you’ll have a much better time at the former musical-from-previous-material show. Oh, yeah, and I think it’ll probably end up putting a much smaller dent in your wallet.
Billed as the “Unauthorized Parody of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’,” “Silence” (at Theater 80) is the latest mock-movie to hit New York, and while the obvious first comparison is “Point Break Live,” it’s more along the lines of Broadway’s “The 39 Steps” in its wizardry and imagination. The 1991 movie is frighteningly well summarized with a minimal amount of performers taking multiple parts, shifting scenery to create sets, and pulling the whole thing off with technical austerity.
Under the taught direction of Christopher Gattelli, music and lyrics by Jon and Al Kaplan, and a book by Hunter Bell (well, there you go!), “Silence” seems destined to please and push forward into public consciousness, from the moment a group of lambs start their Greek Chorus intro, to the T-shirts and memorabilia that greets you in the lobby like a Times Square discount outlet.
In that respect, “Silence” is like the movie “Bridesmaids” or the latest Seth Rogan film. The marketing takes place onstage and off, and the results are focus-group mixed.
On the plus side you have Jenn Harris as Clarice Starling (above, with Brett Barrett). The actress does a perfect dead-pan lisped Jodie Foster send-up, yet never comes across as one-dimensional. Her timing is as exquisite and as droll as her flat wig. Brett Barrett fills in for Anthony Hopkins in the Hannibal Lecter role, and it’s more of a tribute than imitation. He has a beautiful tenor voice and shows it off in the show’s main tune, “If I Could Smell Your Cunt.” (Yes, that’s the title, not to be confused with “I’d Fuck Me,” Buffalo Bill’s big number later on.)
Therein also lays the negatives. The vulgarity of “Silence” is an assumed must to guarantee the late-night straight and gay revelers, whose laughter is falsely enhanced by the excessive imbibing that “downtown” shows attract. Whenever Bell finds a spot for a crude joke, he applies it, and, at its lowest comic denominator, “Silence” throws out a gag (literally) straight from the “There’s Something About Mary” toilet-humor bible.
Like “Bridesmaids” and pretty much anything by Judd Apatow, the show’s best humor is innocent. A bit where Clarice hands paper to Hannibal is hysterical in its minimalism, ditto a later scene when the chorus of lambs “drop hints” to Clarice about whom the killer is. The show’s most inspired moment comes in Act II (at two hours, with an intermission, the 10:30 show is a very late night out), when the wonderful Diedre Goodwin gets her own seemingly spontaneous production number and vamps it up to the nth degree.
The rest of the show is hit and miss, and would benefit from a few cuts and no intermission. The entire supporting cast is excellent, and the Fosse-copy choreography from Gattelli is a hoot (and, once again, much more entertaining than whatever they were trying to whip up in the Bono/Edge extravaganza). I’m not sure how people who’ve never seen “The Silence of the Lambs” will respond to this show, but most who skipped the flick did so because they were uncomfortable with the material. “Silence: The Musical” is also created for an acquired taste—bad, and proud of it.
For more information on showtimes and tickets, visit the website.