BWW Reviews: The Raunchiest SILENCE! You'll Ever Hear
While riding along the freeway, drivers are often faced with the oxymoron of a car wreck on the side of the road. Though it is often gruesome and inappropriate to stare, it is equally as challenging to look away. No matter how shocking or repugnant, your eyes are glued to the scene, both attempting to understand what has just happened, and seeing what will happen next. Such was my experience at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre, watching the regional premiere of Silence! The Musical. Did I love it? No. But despite its raunchy lyrics and eye roll-worthy dialogue, its redeeming music and talented ensemble kept me in my seat for nearly an hour and a half.
Originally premiering on off off-Broadway, Silence! The Musical went on to play at the London Fringe and eventually made its way back to New York City, where it ran an impressive 500 show run off-Broadway. A book by Hunter Bell ([title of show]) and music lyrics by Jon and Al Kaplan, Silence! is described as "a laugh-out-loud raunchy satire [featuring] a singing chorus of floppy eared lambs."
Set in Baltimore, Maryland, Silence! follows FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling, who is selected to interview the infamous "Hannibal the Cannibal," otherwise known as Dr. Hannibal Lechter. As Clarice and Lechter play the musical game of "Quid Pro Quo," Lechter learns of Starling's traumatizing childhood, while Starling gets closer to catching the villainous Buffalo Bill. As the title suggests, Silence! The Musical is billed as "the unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs." Whether you've seen the movie or merely just heard of the Academy Award-winning film, odds are you're familiar enough to understand this oversimplified show (and just in case you aren't, get to the theatre 30-45 minutes early to catch an highlights-only edited version of the movie).
However, don't walk in expecting shocks, thrills, and horror (unless of course song titles like "If I Could Smell Your C*nt" and "I'd F**k Me" shake you up- and if they do, avoid this show like wildfire). Instead, prepare yourself for a ridiculous, vulgar evening of theatre featuring an over exaggerated, but nonetheless very funny, impersonation of Jodie Foster otherwise known as leading lady Clarice Starling (played by Amy Downing), a less-than-frightening Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played by Huck Huckaby), an overplayed and intentionally obnoxious, yet memorable, Catherine Martin (played by Libby Dees-Detling), and an extremely entertaining and enticing Buffalo Bill (brilliantly played by David Ponton), whose performance alone makes this show more enticing.
With a lackluster script and minimal set and costumes, the task of drawing in the audience relies solely on the actors, who, with a high level of energy and noticeable raw talent, mostly succeed. While it's hard to take singing and dancing lambs (looking less like characters in a "horror" show and more like they hopped out of a Little Bo Peep nursery book) seriously, even in a parody, together the ensemble creates amusing and laughable (both with and at) numbers that will have you humming them hours after you've left the theater. Stand out actress Michelle Alexander, in a surprising and very impressive 11 o'clock number, "Catherine Dies Today," almost makes this outlandish show memorable.
Despite its downfalls, like I admitted, I couldn't look away. With catchy music, creative use of a (minimal) set and costumes, and some seriously stand-out cast members (I'm still fawning over Ponton's and Alexander's performances), the show is anything but a flop. Perhaps a die-hard fan of the original film would feel differently, but while the show provided some laughs and poked obvious, amusing fun at itself, it also by no means stands as a memorable night of musical theater (The Book of Mormon or Avenue Q it is not). Grab some friends, have a drink (enjoy a beer or a glass of wine available in the lobby), enjoy some laughs, and experience a lighthearted night out, by all means, but when it comes to the artistic value and theatrical significance, I think I'll just stay Silent.
Silence! The Musical runs at the Savage Vanguard Theatre (2803 E. Manor Road) June 19- July 13 (Thursday- Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 5PM, July 2 and 9 at 8PM, July 5 and 12 at midnight). Direction by Michael McKelvey. For tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com. More info available at www.docthumistug.org
Photo Credit: Yelp.com
From This Author Wendi Reichstein