BWW Reviews: SILENCE! THE MUSICAL Continues to Enthrall at Hayworth Theatre
Silence! The Musical/The unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs/book by Hunter Bell/music & lyrics by Jon Kaplan & Al Kaplan/directed by Christopher Gattelli/Hayworth Theatre/extended through Novemer 18
One is accustomed to the overwhelming cult following of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where fans at midnight screenings dress in character and talk back to the screen. But who would have thought that an Academy Award-winning film like The Silence of the Lambs, whose overall tone is intensely serious and realistically creepy, would hold up equally well in the form of a spoof? And to which audiences would respond in howl-a-minute frankness and style? Well, it has surely happened with the award-winning Silence! The Musical, now in its Los Angeles debut at the Hayworth Theatre. But a few words of warning: really know the movie The Silence of the Lambs inside out, and if you haven't seen it in a while, rent it and watch it right before the stage show!
It isn't that you will not be able to follow the action from what the actors deliver here, but it would help to fully benefit from the enjoyment of each and every precious detail. For Silence! is indeed detailed to the letter in Hunter Bell's direct in-your-face dialogue and Jon and Al Kaplan's obscene, downright dirty songs. From the moment Christine Lakin opens her mouth as student/rookie agent Clarice Starling, gales of laughter engulf the audience, as she nails Jodie Foster down to the minutest Southern inflections in her voice. Of course, there has already been a heavily dosed injection of fun in the opening number with 8 chorus members, dressed as lambs, teasing and cajoling an all-business Starling, as she jogs around the stage. FBI agent Jack Crawford (John Kassir), Dr Chilton (Jeff Skowron), who leads Clarice down to Hannibal Lecter's cell with the cautionary "Don't touch the glass!" - but you must experience this prolonged campy descent to fully believe it - and then the inmate in the next cell whispering "I can smell your ..." all lead up to our first edge-of-your-seat glimpse of Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter (Davis Gaines), who stands and speaks awesomely like Anthony Hopkins, Brit accent and all. It's never disappointing, just one laugh after another. I will not give away any more of the plot for those who are planning to see the show, for even though you may know it well, the surprises are well worth waiting for.
Lakin and Gaines make the two dynamic lead characters completely their own, a daunting task. Christopher Gattelli has brilliantly and stylishly directed - and choreographed - 8 sensational chorus members who essay all the roles, FBI agents, police, etc. His pacing is ultra brisk and his staging - to die for! Apart from the sturdy Kassir as Crawford, Skowron, a scream as Chilton, and the two leads, outstanding as well are Jeff Hiller, so baby yet poker faced and oh so funny, Karl Warden, a fab dancer and dream Hannibal, and Kathy Deitch, terrific as no nonsense Senator Ruth Martin and her whiny victimized daughter Catherine. Stephen Bienskie is deliciously irreverent as psycho serial killer Jaime Gumb, or Buffalo Bill, as he is nicknamed. His solo in drag in front of the mirror to the strains of "Fuck Me Hard" is one of the funniest numbers in the show. Praise as well to LaToya London and to Melissa Sandvig, the dream Clarice. Scott Pask's set design, David Kaley's costumes and Jeff Croiter's lighting design all add the right expressive dimensions to the piece.
There are incredible dance takeoffs on Oklahoma, Carousel, and A Chorus Line, and more sight gags and twisted bits of dialogue than SNL or the Coen Brothers ever dreamed of. Silence! The Musical is a hoot and holler of a show that you cannot afford to miss. But, remember: there's foul language galore, so kiddies should be left at home ... with babysitters, of course!