I suppose I should preface this by saying spoilers ahead, because there is no way to review this show without giving away almost all of the plot of Silence of the Lambs. That being said, you really really should have seen the movie first if you’re considering attending this absurdly brilliant piece of theatre. This is because without the musical interludes, the dialogue in “Silence! The Musical” is almost word for word equal to its cinematic counterpart.
But you’re not going to this show to hear a staged reading of the film. You’re going to this show to hear a heartfelt operatic ballad sung by Hannibal Lecter himself called “If I Could Smell Her Cunt” and to see a group of jazz dancing “lambs” back up Clarice “Shtarling” as she and Buffalo Bill duke it out with hands pointed like guns ’til the bitter end.
Before I get into the show itself, let’s talk a little bit about the wild setting. The Studio Theatre’s 4th floor is a cabaret-style theatre, where a small group of patrons sit at dimly lit tables sipping on specialty cocktails like the “Hannibal Nectar” in front of a tiny, red-curtained stage featuring a catwalk with some space on the floor for the stage to extend into the audience. And though the cast used the entire space, including areas between tables, I am extremely pleased to inform you, nervous theatre-goer, that there is NO AUDIENCE INTERACTION. To whoever is responsible for blocking this show- I thank you from the bottom of my heart for not having any of your cast sit on me.
To continue singing the praises of the behind-the-scenes crew at “Silence! The Musical”– this is SO incredibly staged. There is no backdrop– just the occasional puff of baby powder against black as Clarice’s dead father appears to her in a dream (and then another as he shimmies off stage). The lighting is also entirely on point- as Buffalo Bill follows Clarice through his basement with his night-vision glasses the empty stage is plunged in green light. The minimalist set serves the show perfectly, aided only by dual TV screens broadcasting the name of the location that the current scene is taking place in and, at one point, a series of horribly photoshopped images depicting a heartfelt slideshow as The Senator pleads for her daughter’s return in a song called “My Daughter is Catherine.”
An elaborate set would only detract from the comedic insanity that is happening on stage. This show is the perfect parody– it boldly draws attention to all of the film’s logical flaws (there’s a song called “It’s Me!” where Hannibal repeatedly lifts his face mask (a pixelated print of the actor playing a cop’s face) to remind the audience that the dead cop is in fact him and he is currently escaping as we watch). It feels like one long inside joke between the audience and the cast.
There is not one member of the ten-person cast who isn’t perfect for their role. The small “ensemble” (if I can even call them that, every single cast member is on stage for at least 80% of the show), have to rapidly change tags on their shirt denoting whether they are a “lamb” or “FBI agent” or “another medical person” while performing elaborate choreography and harmonies. Two of the cast members, Hayley Travers and Awa Sal Secka, get a chance to shine with respective solos, with Travers playing both Catherine and her mother and Secka as Ardelia (don’t worry, the homoeroticism between Clarice and Ardelia is definitely acknowledged in “Silence!”). The supporting cast is equally as talented and present as the main players, led by Laura Jordan as Clarice and Tally Sessions as Hannibal Lecter. Jordan is obviously so comfortable in this role, but nowhere near hinting of any tiredness. And Sessions is basically the Phantom of the Opera disguised as a tango-dancing Hannibal Lecter. It’s clear that he is truly enjoying this role (but then again, who wouldn’t). Tom Story, who plays Buffalo Bill, does a terrifyingly spot-on impression of movie character, complete with a well-timed tuck. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll see soon enough.
If you haven’t seen the film, please go watch it right now. It’s on Netflix. It doesn’t matter whether or not you like it. The second you finish it, get tickets to this show.