DownStageRight Productions, Goldcorp Stage, until August 3rd
SILENCE! THE MUSICAL
My Two Cents
Silence! The Musical is a ninety-minute joke told by some excellent performers. It’s billed as the “unauthorized parody of The Silence Of The Lambs”. So, if the very idea of that premise doesn’t make you laugh, chances are this show isn’t for you. The joke is that it’s so grim, gruesome, and gory that juxtaposing it with traditional musical theatre clichés must be hilarious. Eventually, the joke wears thin, but the show is only an hour and a half so it doesn’t have enough time to get boring.
It’s vulgar, but there are ample warnings to indicate this before the show even begins. The cast leans into the absurdity of the premise with charm and enthusiasm. Jon and Al Kaplan’s songs are ear-wormy fun. The harmonies of the opening number are beautiful and haunting - even though it’s sung by a chorus of lambs in bowler hats. The high point of the evening for me was Seth Gordon Little’s marvellous portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, chiefly in his big number, which had me in tears of laughter. Little doesn’t try to be Anthony Hopkins or Mads Mikkelsen. His Lecter exists in the musical theatre world, as he should, since, well, this is a musical. Conversely, Stephanie Liatopoulous (playing Clarice) leans into her Jodie Foster impression for all it’s worth, and succeeds. She’s got a great voice and a firm handle on Ken Overbey’s slick choreography, too. Steffanie Davis really gets to show off her powerhouse vocals, playing both Catherine Martin and her mother, Senator Martin. I’ve never seen Scott Walters as anything but the leading man, but here he plays a wide variety of supporting roles with scene-stealing gusto and comedic commitment.
The Silence Of The Lambs was considered a progressively feminist story at the time (the film came out in 1991), highlighting Clarice Starling’s struggle to be taken seriously as FBI. The big bad is Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who stalks, starves and murders women so that he can be “transformed” by wearing their skin. From a 2019 perspective, we can see how damaging this portrayal truly is. Buffalo Bill is not even necessarily a trans character, but the blurring of the line between the character's dementedness and gender non-conformity is morally irresponsible at best. It’s unfortunate that a story meant to empower a female audience had to betray the LGBTQ community in such a way. (This is not an exactly an issue with Silence! The Musical but more with the original material).
That being said, the musical itself steers away from being a satire and sticks strictly to parody. There are so many meta-theatrical moments that sometimes it's hard to know which are scripted and which have been made up on the spot. The show provides only a few moments that confront the audience’s complicity in the shoddy treatment of its characters. Overall there is a distinctly Fringe-y vibe to the evening, which isn't necessarily a bad thing (I love Fringe). The Goldcorp stage feels somewhat bare, but the lack of props and minimal sets are what inspire many of the night’s laughs, with flashes of ingenuity at the ridiculousness of the glass that separates Lecter and Starling, an airplane in flight, and, of course, those bowler-hatted lambs.
If you are a fan of the 1991 film, and you love musicals, you will definitely get a kick out of the show. Honestly, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but wish it could have gone a bit deeper in its satire instead of just relying on penis jokes.