Landing on St. Marks' Theatre 80 in June, and recently extended, "by popular demand," through September 24, Silence! The Musical has fluttered into the New York City theater scene and refuses to be, well, silenced.
Silence! touts itself as the "unauthorized parody" of the 1991 Academy Award winning crime thriller, Silence of the Lambs. The brainchild of Jon and Al Kaplan, Silence!, like any good parody, works well because it essentially follows the plot as developed in the movie, but wildly exaggerates the characters and their storylines. Raunchier than the film could ever hope to be, Silence! is a creative adaptation with a talented cast. Silence! was adapted from a screenplay of the same name by Jon and Al Kaplan, who also composed the music and lyrics. The book for the musical is by Hunter Bell.
To introduce the show, singing and dancing lambs explain that Silence! is the story of budding FBI trainee, Clarice Starling (played by Jenn Harris), and her investigation into the minds of two men, "one who likes to cook and eat his patients, and one who likes to wear them like a suit...."
Much like the movie, Silence! begins with a scene in the woods near the FBI's training academy at Quantico, Virginia, with Starling jogging stoically before being called into the office of Agent Jack Crawford (played by Howard Kaye), where she is given the opportunity of her trainee-career, to interview the notorious serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played by Brent Barrett), aka, Hannibal the Cannibal. Verbatim lines from the movie are recited and then played upon with zeal, and, at any moment, any character may break out into song and/or dance.
Brent Barrett does a remarkable job of portraying the character of Hannibal as the maniacal psychopath who toys with Starling and feeds (not literally...) on her naiveté as a trainee. He captures quite well the macabre persona originated by Anthony Hopkins (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Hannibal) in the film.
Jenn Harris also finely mimics the mannerisms of Jodie Foster as Starling, and although her embellished West Virginia accent begins to wear thin as a joke, her ability to imitate even the inflections of Foster's voice is impressive.
Barrett and Harris create a creepy chemistry while they tango to what is arguably the show's most memorable musical number, "Quid Pro Quo." "Quid Pro Quo" is a reference to Hannibal's offer to Starling to provide her with information that will help her capture at-large serial killer known only as "Buffalo Bill," if she will reveal personal details of her own life. (Christopher Gattelli directed and choreographed the show).
Lucia Spina plays both Buffalo Bill's captive, Catherine Martin, and Catherine's mother, Senator Ruth Martin. As Senator Martin, Spina displays a beautiful soprano voice even as she wails, ad naseum, Cath-er-ine, Cath-er-ine, Cath-er-ine, in a song-plea to Bill to free her daughter.
All of the actors have superb comedic timing, but none better than Jeff Hiller, who, as Sgt. Pembry, as well as some bit parts, is charmingly funny, and brings to Silence! what actor Jack McBrayer brings to TV hit, 30 Rock.
Overall, Silence! is fresh, quirky and fun, and the budget show is a cheaper, yet worthwhile alternative to Broadway. You can purchase tickets here for shows through September 24.