By Charly SHELTON
“Hello, Clarice.” The haunting line echoes through the darkened theatre. Dr. Lecter, the psychiatrist who eats his patients, eyes the young FBI agent curiously. But rather than quietly ruminating, he breaks into song. And that’s just the beginning.
The horribly irreverent and politically incorrect musical “Silence – The Musical” is an unauthorized parody of the classic 1991 film by Jonathan Demme. The dark psychological drama follows rookie agent Clarice Starling (played in the film by Jodie Foster) as she tracks down serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine in the film) before he can skin his next victim. She enlists the help of criminal psychologist Hannibal Lecter (famously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in an Oscar-winning performance) who is himself a criminal, incarcerated in a maximum security asylum. The drama unfolds in a disturbing and dark manner as the film delves into the mind of a psychopath.
But not in this musical.
If ever there was a perfect example of the phrase, “I don’t suffer from insanity, I revel in it,” it would be this musical. It takes a dark, and honestly scary, film and makes it into a funny, musically enhanced farce that keeps audiences laughing from curtain up to curtain down. The 90-minute show, playing at the Hayworth Theatre in Los Angeles, is absolutely hilarious. And what makes it even better is the skill of the actors. Not that they aren’t funny, but hearing some of the vulgar or silly lyrics coming from such amazing voices makes it even better because they are using the talent, some who are classically trained or operatic singers, to really belt out such songs as “Would you *#@% me?” and “Put the *#@% ing Lotion in the Basket!” Definitely not something you will hear coming from such sophisticated actors often. The off-Broadway hit has come to L.A. for a limited run, playing now through Dec. 9.
The real show stealer, other than the music itself, was Hannibal Lecter, played by Davis Gaines. His voice was one in particular that stood out as amazing when singing these silly songs. And to take on a role from Anthony Hopkins, especially one so famous, is a daunting task to be sure. Gaines pulls it off so well, though, and gives his own flavor to the character (pun intended) that works really well with this incarnation. If Gaines were to play it too straight, he would not only drag the production down, it would be hard to see his performance (considering that other actors who have historically played Lecter tend to lean on subtlety to portray him). But if Lecter were portrayed too comically, the audience wouldn’t take him seriously as the character or the threat he poses.
Gaines ratified the two extremes and walked perfectly down the centerline to be creepy but not scary, and funny but not goofy. Lecter is an important role for the production to hang on and Gaines very capably kept the show right in the path of perfection.
If you can’t afford the $100-plus tickets for “Book of Mormon” but still want to take in some hilarious live theatre, try, “Silence – The Musical.” Tickets are between $45 and $75 and the intimate theatre setting ensures that every seat in the house has a good view. But be warned – this is an 18 and up show. It is very adult and is definitely inappropriate for younger audiences.
Being 23 myself, I can say that I give this show 5 out of 5 stars.
Visit silencethemusical-la.com for ticket information.