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Theater Review (LA): Silence! The Musical at the Hayworth

Lovers of cult movies – and cult theater – can rejoice. Silence! The Musical has made the journey from New York to Los Angeles with all the laughs intact.

Bolstered by Jon and Al Kaplan’s infinitely clever music and lyrics and a sharp-witted book by Hunter Bell, Silence transfers Jonathan Demme’s 1991 horror masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs to the stage in a riotous adaptation punctuated by dead-on performances, gleefully raunchy humor, and elaborate song-and-dance numbers.

The plot of Demme’s film has been telescoped into 90 fast-paced minutes with all its major incidents intact. In fact, two of its most notorious lines of dialogue have been developed into full-on production numbers, and fans will be delighted to see their favorite scenes reinterpreted with a comic twist.

As Clarice Starling, the neophyte FBI agent assigned to the Buffalo Bill murder case, Christine Lakin has an uncanny physical similarity to Jodie Foster and does a perfect imitation of the Academy Award-winner’s vocal mannerisms for the character. Davis Gaines is an impressive visage as Hannibal Lecter, and Stephen Bienskie completes the trio of leads with his fearless portrayal of Buffalo Bill. The fact that these actors are all so convincing in their interpretations makes the comedy they’re delivering even funnier.

In smaller but no less important roles, Jeff Skowron is an unctuous Dr. Childress; Kathy Dietch manages to play both the lotion-rubbing victim Catherine and her senator mother; Jeff Hiller is a riot in multiple roles (including “Multiple” Miggs); and Latoya London gets to belt out her own number as Clarice’s sidekick and co-trainee, Ardelia. Additionally, they appear in an all-lamb chorus to help propel the story along.

Christopher Gattelli’s direction and elaborate choreography take the Kaplans’ songs to absurdly comic heights, aided immeasurably by Scott Pask’s innovative sets and David Kaley’s accurate yet spoofy costuming. Lighting by Jeff Croiter and and sound design by Carl Casella help to convey the gloominess of the original film, which serves as an ironic counterpoint to the brightness of the comedy in this production.

And, yes, for all you Lamb aficionados out there – the tuck scene is recreated.

Silence! The Musical plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. through October 7 at the Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Reservations can be made online or by calling (866) 811-4111.

About Kurt Gardner

Los Angeles-based writer, critic and marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.