A biting, hilariously crude musical parody.
I don’t believe there’d be many folks who’d argue that Silence of the Lambs isn’t ripe for parody. The distinct characters, the famous lines, the bone-chilling seriousness of it all — all primed for spoofing. The good news is that the feat has been accomplished in a fun, shockingly crude way by Cloud 9 Theatricals, Lang Entertainment Group, and Ray of Light Theatre in their production of Silence! The Musical (show now extended through March 18th! – tickets here). The show is an incredibly tight, minimalist production punctuated by musical numbers culled from infamous lines of dialogue and plot elements of Jonathan Demme’s 1991 film. Scott Hayes and Anne Norland, who I had the chance to interview, play Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, leading the bill of the 10 member cast. Yes, that’s right, the picture above includes 7/10 of the total cast. Aside from the two leads and Brian Watson as Buffalo Bill, the remaining seven cast members wear multiple hats, playing an assortment of characters including a chorus of lambs, FBI agents, work colleagues, guards, etc. The manic energy and precisely crafted parodical elements of the show make Silence! a ridiculously fun time at the theatre.
If you’re a hardcore fan of the movie (i.e. you’ve seen it multiple times), you’ll likely catch more of the subtle humor and references. Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, who wrote the music and screenplay, and Hunter Bell, who adapted it to the stage, were keen on poking fun of the larger themes and character stereotypes from the film, but also exaggerating the small but crucial moments to the point of absurdism: the pen that Hannibal Lecter used to free himself, the drawings in his cell, the FBI’s eagerness to follow the wrong lead, etc. Each one of these elements gets front-and-center treatment, which is amusing because it highlights how pointedly motif-driven the original work was.
You can likely guess what they’re singing about in the picture above. I would love to talk about each of the songs, but unless you were privy to the immense online fame that the original 9-song set garnered back in 2002, the titles and lyrics have tremendous (and worthwhile) shock value that I don’t want to spoil. I’ll just say this to give you a good idea of the song selection — “Put the F*cking Lotion in the Basket” is a showstopper unlike any other. Of course, all the other songs are hilarious in their own right, with charming choreography featuring a multi-purpose set design, and easy, at times onstage, costume transformations. All of this is made possible by the actors’ performance chops. Norland channels the thickest West Virginian accent one could possibly muster to great comedic effect, Angel Adedokun, who plays infamous minor character/FBI agent Ardelia Mapp, performs numerous roles and wins the audience over with her jazzy smash song about Mapp finally doing something useful, and Watson’s performance as Buffalo Bill is brave and utterly vulgar.
What I’m getting at is that Silence! The Musical ain’t for the easily offended. It’s a crude, 90 minute unadulterated comedy. I won’t be able to watch Silence of the Lambs the same way again, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’ll likely be humming a few of the show’s tunes to myself for the next few weeks…because, if I hum them out loud, it’ll be really awkward.
Go see Silence! The Musical at the Victoria Theatre, playing now through March 18th. Tickets here.