“Parodies on Parade” seems to be the theatrical trend of the season, and Silence! The Musical, Christopher Gattelli’s mock-musical of the Oscar-winning masterpiece, falls directly in line. This no-holds-barred entertainment appeals to the lowest common denominator possible, but its incredibly high caliber of talent makes it a meal to savor.
I promise, the above compliment will be my lone pun regarding the show, a celebration of cannibals and serial killers and the speech-impeded FBI trainees that hunt them down. Would that the musicians, Jon and Al Kaplan, and librettist Hunter Bell, exercised similar restraint in this 2005 Fringe Festival entry.
Jenn Harris plays Clarice Starling, that most disciplined of crime-fighting students with an excellent amount of polish, but it’s the two criminals that steal with the show. The magnificent Paul Kandel (a Tony- nominee for the Who’s Tommy) mimics Anthony Hopkins’ sinister delivery from the film, and also gets his own power ballad. It isn’t printable, but suffice it to say, it has to do with one of the film’s more memorable lines. In fact, most of the film, which among its many attributes was an unparalleled attention to continuity and detail, remains intact for this spoof – including Clarice’s quick first scene with best friend Ardelia Mapp (Deidre Goodwin), and Senator Ruth Martin’s repeated use of daughter Katherine’s name in a plea to her kidnapper (both Martin’s are played by Lisa Howard, fresh from Broadway’s transfer hit The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). This loyalty to the original is both a sign of respect and an embarrassment of mockery riches for the original.
Of course, the other major performance worth saluting is Stephen Bienske, as Buffalo Bill. Bienske does an outstanding job in what becomes the campiest character of this lampoon, down to his View-Master goggles (used as a replacement for the film’s infrared night gear). Goodwin, Harry Bouvy, and Jeff Hiller all have great moments as well in this fluid, if mostly slight exercise into sophomoric humor. But Gattelli fared better earlier this year with the more gut-busting Altar Boyz. With such talent in front of and behind the stage, one had hoped for something more. Here’s hoping all parties deliver more next time around.
The last performance is on Sunday August 28 at 12.00pm.
The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues – that’s a total of more than 1300 performances. It is in its nith year, and lasts from Aug. 12th to 28th.