Los Angeles Theater Review: SILENCE! THE MUSICAL (Hayworth Theatre)

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by Thomas Antoinne on September 10, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


Thomas Antoinne’s Stage and Cinema review of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Hayworth in Los AngelesSilence! The Musical was one of the big hits of the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival. The parody of Jonathan Demme’s 1991 Oscar-winning horror thriller Silence of the Lambs found a home Off-Broadway last year, created enough buzz for a long run, and is still packing ‘em in. Now, the Los Angeles franchise comes to the Hayworth Theatre this week; the production, regretfully, does not live up to the hype.

The challenge with a spoof is trusting in the strength of brevity. Silence! The Musical starts cleverly enough with both a charming chorus of sheep and a spot-on imitation of Jodi Foster by Christine Lakin, accented deftly with slurred S’s and a West Virginia drawl. But the production goes nowhere fast. Puns, comic shtick, sight gags, meta-theatrical tricks, big wigs, goofy costumes, naughty production numbers, and predictable silliness rule this production and wear down the audience’s enthusiasm by pitching the comedy to the lowest common denominator. Halfway through the 90-minute show, the audience seems to have had enough. In this case, less show would have definitely been more entertaining.

That is not to say the show is without its merits. One very inspired bit of comic writing in Hunter Bell’s eager-to-please libretto is a running gag about Hannibal Lecter’s artwork. Instead of being a reflection of his genius, the art looks like it was done by a first-grader. The gag is brilliant in both its originality and element of Thomas Antoinne’s Stage and Cinema review of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Hayworth in Los Angelessurprise, extended to a welcome and well-earned comic callback. If only the rest of the show’s comedy had played along these lines. Instead we are given the theatrical version of Mad Magazine, the kind of uninspired sophomoric parody you’d see in a second-rate Saturday Night Live sketch.

The good news is that Silence! The Musical’s ensemble is uniformly strong. While Christine Larkin delivers a fiercely funny imitation of Jodi Foster’s mannered Clarice Starling, Davis Gaines makes the more satisfying choice of developing an authentic Hannibal Lecter characterization, which suggests Anthony Hopkins’ iconic Oscar-winning turn rather than aping it. Davis sings the less-than-memorable Jon and Al Kaplan score with his usual rich vocal styling and full commitment. Also a standout is Jeff Hiller from the original New York cast; Hiller brings a light comic touch to some very choice bits, including a moment where he wheels out Dr. Lecter on a dolly; it is almost Keatonesque in its simplicity.

Thomas Antoinne’s Stage and Cinema review of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Hayworth in Los Angeles

Tony-winner Christopher Gattelli adds to the plus column by guiding excellent dancers Karl Warden and Melissa Sandvig in a scandalous pas de deux as Gaines’s Lecter belts out lyrics that strafe with C-bombs (which the creators obviously believe is – if you’ll pardon the spoonerism – one cunning stunt). However, cast members are allowed to inexplicably break character and crack each other up a la The Carol Burnett Show; these bits of comedy improvisation feel planned, and the ensemble doesn’t always let the audience in on the joke; if the audience is left out of the comic loop, then who exactly is being entertained?

Thomas Antoinne’s Stage and Cinema review of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Hayworth in Los Angeles

Fluidly staged and cleverly choreographed by Gattelli, Scott Pask’s simple set pieces come and go with enough grace to move things along without drawing attention to them. The staging is extremely skillful even though there is no real sense of a director’s concept at work. Hunter Bell’s book starts out humorously enough, but soon loses stream. The Kaplan & Kaplan songs are cheerfully pastiche if completely forgettable, relying heavily on some clever lyrics – pocked with imperfect rhymes – to distract from the generic melodies. There’s no hiding the fact that the score lacks authentic composition.

Thomas Antoinne’s Stage and Cinema review of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Hayworth in Los Angeles

What is never clear is the need to satire Silence of the Lambs at this point in the 21st century. This is entertainment for the sake of entertainment. If only it were more consistently entertaining.

At its heart Silence! The Musical unapologetically remains a fringe show. Like many fringe satires, the parody is not able to sustain itself for a full-length production. Those naughty F-bombs are dropped with such frequency that any shock value – like the show itself – is a case of diminishing returns.

Thomas Antoinne’s Stage and Cinema review of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Hayworth in Los Angeles

photos by Michael Lamont

Silence! The Musical
Hayworth Theatre
scheduled to close on Oct. 7, 2012
EXTENDED through December 9, 2012
for tickets, visit Ovation Tix


Robb McCaffree October 13, 2015 at 11:14 pm

Sorry, but your estimations of how the audiences were feeling are completely off on this one. I just happened by this review, years later, because I was reminiscing about this hilarious, smart, and hummably memorable show. I went to see it six times, bringing friends and family and invariably everyone loved it. The audiences I saw loved it. All other critics seemed to love it as well (see someone else’s comment below… which has since been updated to “91% sweet” reviews). The hi-jinks may have been lost on you (the single reviewer who is listed as “bitter”), but I hate to see a reviewer cast his shadow on everyone else’s experience. This show was great and I wish it would rise again.

Tony Frankel October 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Robb, of course you understand that your opinion is not everyone’s opinion. You also understand that if McDonald’s is the #1 restaurant, it doesn’t mean the food is great. You should also know that Bitter Lemons (which created the “sweet” and “bitter” ratings) does NOT amalgamate every review out there, and that the editor decides what is “bitter” and what is “sweet”; another review said “not all of the jokes land, and what inspires laughter will vary from person to person” but it got a “sweet” rating anyway.

I happened to be in the audience the night Mr. Antoinne reviewed the show, and the audience was indeed visually shifting in their seats at the halfway mark. I agree with his review: This show came flying out of the gate but could not sustain that impetus. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t–and it certainly didn’t live up to its potential.

I’m sorry you’re upset that a show you loved isn’t loved by the masses with the fervor that you love it. That’s why I’m relieved we don’t live in a fascist state. Or do we..?

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