Silence! The Musical is described as ‘the unauthorised parody of The Silence of the Lambs‘ and grew from a collection of songs posted on the internet into an off-Broadway show in 2005. It had a two week run in Baron’s Court last year, but this version at the Above the Stag theatre above a Victoria gay bar is billed as the European professional premiere: it has added new material getting its first airing and retains the original director from New York, Christopher Gatelli.
It does what is says on the tin, it’s a relatively faithful rerun of the events of the film where trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling is pressed into interviewing notorious psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter in prison in order to help catch another serial killer Buffalo Bill. However, it is mercilessly and hilariously parodied throughout with a book by Hunter Bell and music and lyrics by Jon & Al Kaplan and a chorus of singing and dancing lambs.
Incredibly rude in places, with some song titles I dare not mention on here, but oddly enough these weren’t always the funniest parts of the show. It is the attention to detail that had me in stitches for large stretches of the show: the chalk dust signifying the arrival of the dead dad, the pictures in Lecter’s cell, the mask he uses to escape, the little tango kicks in ‘Quid Pro Quo’, all small things but excellently executed and all adding together to great comic effect. It reminded me of the film Airplane in that respect, jam-packed of visual gags as well as clever writing, the scenes with Clarice jogging past other FBI trainees and then walking past prisoners to get to Lecter were both really funny.
Key to the success of fringe shows, musicals in particular, is the enthusiasm of the cast, and here there’s no problem whatsoever. Everyone pitches in with a maximum of effort and I loved that everyone appeared as part of the lamb chorus at some point, even the Lecter-playing Miles Western, as creepy a lamb as you will ever see. As the Chianti-supping Doctor, Western is brilliant, suggesting a world of insanity with his eyes and a good clear singing voice, always vital when singing unfamiliar songs. Fabian Hartwell’s Buffalo Bill was also good, even if I wish he hadn’t telegraphed his grand ‘reveal’ quite so much.
Tory Ross as Clarice is rightly the star of the show though. Clearly having a ball onstage, she got laughs with practically every line and gesture in a marvellously assured performance, and a great sense of comic timing. It’s hard to pick a favourite moment of hers, but the fat girl joke sequence really was superb.
Being a first preview, I’m sure the choreographing of the moving panels will become a lot smoother, but I would recommend a little more incidental music or different flooring as they were often excessively noisy when being repositioned. And a couple of the performers need to adjust their pitching, their voices were too quiet even for this intimate venue. But with six weeks to run, I’m sure everything will settle nicely and this ought to become a good success, it really is as funny as anything in the West End.