Silence! The Musical
The Unauthorized Parody of The Silence of the Lambs
Review: 4 out of 5 stars
Runs through Nov. 15; 8 p.m. Thurs., Fri. and Sat., 4 p.m on Sun., Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; $29.50 (discounts available); jobsitetheater.org.
Those suffering from Broadway retread fatigue — add exclamation point and stir! — may be pleasantly surprised that Jobsite Theater does much more than spruce up a mediocre script with its Halloween production of Silence! The Musical. The unauthorized parody of Jonathan Demme's 1991 chiller entertains from curtain to curtain call with clever jokes, outlandish sight gags and sassy song and dance.
The show's script is surprisingly well-crafted and surprisingly faithful to to the film adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel — singing livestock and oversexed characters notwithstanding. The story, as most know, follows a novice FBI agent on the case of skin-grafting serial killer with the assistance of an incarcerated cannibal. Hunter Bell, co-author and co-star of [title of show], wrote the book. Brothers Jon and Al Kaplan, who've collaborated with Lonely Island, penned the play's tunes, which made Entertainment Weekly's "Must List" in 2004. Local triple treat Alison Burns choreographs with dorky and Fosse-infused moves (jazz hands included).
What's uncanny is that all the humor intertwines so ingeniously with the plot and captures each of the musical's main characters and even some of the supporting players too. There's Mel Brooks-like slapstick throughout that should give even the grouchiest cynic the giggles.
Tunes include verbatim dialogue from the movie as well as some really funny wordplay. In the introductory number, we're told, "This is the silence of the lambs/ You may have nightmares when you're through/ And if you leave here feeling hollow/ It scared the shit right out of you."
Local favorites like Colleen Cherry and Heather Krueger perform multiple roles and prance about as members of the lamb chorus, distracting from dialogue and forcing audiences to see the show two or three times to catch all the gags, from orgiastic silhouettes upstage to silly gestures downstage — like Caitlin Greene and her bent-finger mustache, which signals a shift from Clarice's friend Ardelia Mapp to FBI agent Barney. Greene is an unlikely scene stealer with a fierce Aretha-style vocal lead in one of the numbers. She also hams it up during a butt-slapping flirtation with Agent Starling, a comedic nod to the controversy around Jodie Foster's hushed homosexuality.
Vodkanauts frontman Jonathan Harrison, who last appeared in Jobsite's 2014 Jaeb show Return from the Forbidden Planet, plays people-eater Hannibal Lecter with charisma and creepy charm. Amy E. Gray, who gave a superb performance as the trans male Itzhak in Jobsite's Hedwig and the Inch, is adorably deadpan as Clarice Starling. Her shpeech impediment and West Virginia accent riffs on Jodie Foster's Starling with a dash of Reba McIntyre. Kudos to director David M. Jenkins, who mans a busy stage that never comes across as too chaotic.
One of the funniest cast members, Spencer Meyers (Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch), goes for broke once again as a gender-bending diva, this time as the low-voiced and menacing Jame Gumb, belting out a couple of the show's epic anthems: "Are You About a Size 14?" and the "Put the Fucking Lotion in the Basket."
Silence! is one of those shows that's so fun, you'll wish were onstage with the cast. Everyone looks like they're having a blast. The most memorable numbers are so raunchy that we won't mention their titles here — if anything, not to give out spoilers.
A couple of minor opening-night line flubs aside, Silence! will go down among Jobsite’s all-time best. Just one complaint: No table service in the Jaeb and only one bar in the lobby. Arrive early if you want a pre-show drink.