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Interview: SRO Productions Talks SILENCE!

Chris Gibson as Hannibal Lecter
Photo by Nicole Nesson

I got the opportunity to speak with actors Chris Gibson and Rachel Landon, Stage Manager Lauren Hainley, and Choreographer Eric Dano about SRO's upcoming production of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL. The musical is a parody of the 1991 Academy Award winning film, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

The show is directed by Chris Patton and stars Chris Gibson, Rachel Landon, Bryan Kaplun, Chaney Moore, Tom Stell, Kiefer Slaton, Maryann Williams, Taelon J. Stonecipher, and Heather Buzonas. SILENCE! THE MUSICAL will make its Houston premiere and run from June 9 - June 25, 2016 at Obsidian Theater.

How did the decision come about to do SILENCE! THE MUSICAL?

Rachel: About two years ago, a friend had brought it to my attention. I tried to get the rights immediately. I think the only other theatre company in Texas that has produced it is Zach Scott Theatre in Austin. There were only a handful of theatres that got the rights to perform it in the country at that time, and then the publishing company took back the rights really quickly so they could make revisions to the script and score. They finally released them again. After two years, we got the rights to perform it and are glad we did, because we really wanted to be the first company to produce it in Houston.

Rachel Landon as Clarice & Chris Gibson as Lecter
in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL with SRO Productions
Photo by Nicole Nesson

Chris, you'll be playing Hannibal Lecter in the show- have you ever had to play a serial killer before?

Chris: In a film, I played a serial killer. But he was not as charming as Lecter. He was charming too, but- I'm always either cast as an a-hole, a killer, an old white man, or a combination of the three. That's my range [laughs].

Rachel: This is a combination of the three.

What has the process been like for you in this role, Chris?

Chris: Mainly watching and rewatching Anthony Hopkins in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and just ripping it off. Just doing my best to blatantly rip it off. This is a parody, and the best way to parody it is to honestly imitate him. He creates such an amazing character. The fact that he's from Wales and he plays a New England intellectual and doctor. His accent is hard to codify. It's very unique to this character. So, we watched THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS several times and HANNIBAL as well- where he gets a little bit more dialogue and he's out of prison. His portrayal is creepy. People say it's the scariest horror film they've ever seen. But really, although there are some disturbing images, I think a lot of it has to do with how intense his performance is and the fact that he is behind bars the entire movie, until he's not and then you ask "what the hell is going to happen?"

I think he's more intense in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS than in HANNIBAL because he doesn't have that obstacle in HANNIBAL of being behind the glass. In THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, you can imagine just anything could happen if he got out. It's the idea of what he could do that's more terrifying than what he is doing or has done. Technically, from an acting standpoint, seeing his ability to not blink- a lot has to do with editing, but not all of those takes- he just has this intense stare and this wonderful delivery. Hopkins described Lecter's voice as a cross between Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn, which is a really interesting and descriptive characterization. I've been watching the films, watching documentaries about the film, reading the book, and watching interviews with Anthony Hopkins and trying to immerse myself in it.

Rachel Landon as Clarice with Chaney Moore,
Tom Stell, Kiefer Slaton, Maryann Williams,
Taelon J. Stonecipher and Heather Buzonasin
in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL with SRO Productions
Photo by Nicole Nesson

In the show, how does Hannibal get under Clarice's skin?

Rachel: The dialogue is ripped right out of the movie. The playwright obviously took some liberties with the jokes and the nasty sidebars and things like that in the show. Lecter does a very similar thing in the movie, which is he uses her past, her insecurities, and all these open wounds that she has and uses them against herself. But in a strange way it helps her. It's an interesting relationship, and that's why it's one of the best relationships in cinema. They only have a very short time on screen together, but they make this very deep connection, he digs into these open wounds, and at the end she triumphs and he helps her do that.

Chris: I think he's really courting her more than he's trying to get under her skin. That's what's creepy.

Rachel: He digs her.

Chris: He digs her. He respects her. He wouldn't hurt her.

Rachel: Like it says in the movie, "he would consider it rude."

Chris: There was something great that Anthony Hopkins did to Jodie Foster in the film. Jodie Foster showed up without an accent, but Jonathan Demme wanted her to have an accent. So she turned on this Appalachian accent and Demme approved it. They do this scene and without talking about it, in one line, Hopkins takes it and turns it on her and starts talking in her accent. It infuriated Jodie Foster. As an actress, she was like "this actor is mocking my accent!", but she didn't get mad at him, she used it to infuse into her character. So, we do that now, where she's already doing an absurd version of Jodie Foster and I jump on top of that too.

What role do the lambs play in the show?

Rachel: The lambs play kind of like a Greek chorus in the show. The playwright wrote it in a way that it's a parody for poor theatre, where the ensemble is in all black and they fill in for all the parts in the show. It's done in a versatile and frenetic way in the show.

Lauren: We have a cast of nine, but we only have three people playing one character. They all do a lot of work. The fun thing about this show is that it's so self aware. The show knows that it's so ridiculous. Even the lambs, the changing of the characters- it's all self aware of what's happening.

Bryan Kaplun as Buffalo Bill
in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL with SRO Productions
Photo by Nicole Nesson

What's the tone of the music and choreography of the show?

Eric: One of the great things about this show is that everyone can enjoy it. The jokes are incredibly broad and crude. But it feels to me that the script was written for theatre people. It's a sendup of a lot of theatre conventions. There's a sendup of OKLAHOMA's dream ballet, there's one of a Fosse number. It's really a straightforward musical. It's very presentational. The audience is allowed to share the joke with you.

What can audiences expect at the show?

Eric: The director, Chris Patton, and I have talked- and one of the things we want in this show is audiences walking away asking "was that a mistake in that number or was that on purpose?" There's a lot of moments like that, where we want to play to the audience's perception. We can't wait to get this in front of people, because we are laughing all the time. We're not sure how long we're going to have to hold for some of these laughs. They're not going to be able to stop laughing. It is joke after joke, and it doesn't stop. It never tries to go over the audience's head. It plays to the audience.

June 9 through June 25, 2016
SRO Productions
at Obsidian Theater

Lyrics & Music by Jon Kaplan & Al Kaplan and book by Hunter Bell
Directed by Chris Patton
Musical Direction by Eduardo Guzman
Choreography by Eric Dano
Stage Management by Lauren Hainley

Rachel Landon as Clarice, Chris Gibson as Hannibal Lecter, Bryan Kaplun as Buffalo Bill, Chaney Moore as Catherine Martin/Senator Martin/Ensemble, Tom Stell as Crawford/Papa Starling/Ensemble, Kiefer Slaton as Dr. Chilton/Ensemble,Maryann Williams as Ardelia/Ensemble, Taelon J. Stonecipher as Miggs/Ensemble, and Heather Buzonas as Doyle/Ensemble.

For mature audiences only. No children allowed.

Houston Premiere at Obsidian Theater June 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 at 8pm and Sunday June 19 at 3pm.

All seating is assigned.

For information and tickets call 713-300-2358 or email

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