[Note: The following is a review of the original production at Theater 80. The cast and venue have changed since then.]
If this tuneful parody of the 1991 to-catch-a-serial-killer flick were a meal (come on, no other metaphor will do), it would be a bucket of popcorn slathered in melted cheese, sprinkled with Tabasco and washed down—not with a nice chianti—but with a pitcher of fruity sangria. Campy, cheerfully vulgar and mounted on the cheap, Silence! The Musical is ideal summer fare, not particularly nutritious but sweet, tangy and very, very tasty.
There is craft beneath this goofy stunt, first presented in 2005’s Fringe Festival. Songwriter brothers Jon and Al Kaplan (Web sensations who also musicalized Predator and Conan the Barbarian) pair with book writer Hunter Bell of [title of show] and director-choreographer Christopher Gattelli to serve up a narratively faithful but tonally irreverent retelling of FBI agent Clarice Starling (Harris) and her quest to nab woman-skinning transsexual psycho Buffalo Bill (Stephen Bienskie) with the help of human-flesh connoisseur Hannibal Lecter (Barrett). Famous quotables from the original screenplay furnish songs with titles such as “If I Could Smell Her Cunt,” “Are You About a Size 14?” and “I’d Fuck Me.”
If you’ve seen the Jonathan Demme film, but those numbers don’t prompt a chuckle, you might need to rent it again, since the laughs work best with the movie’s crisp, unnerving images fresh in mind. Still, there’s so much comedic talent to savor, you can enjoy Silence! on its own daffy merits. Harris perfectly nails Jodie Foster’s clenched, twangy-lisping Starling, whereas Barrett smartly avoids aping Anthony Hopkins. Pungent, punchy and raunchy, with a sheepish chorus to boot, the consummately silly Silence! will leave you stuffed and wanting mutton more. —David Cote
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote