You know you're in for a classy night at the theatre when you overhear an usher telling someone "just to let you know, if you sit there you might get hit by semen. It's OK, it's not real semen." Yes, it's the musical version of The Silence of the Lambs, which Broadway choreographer Christopher Gatelli must feel pretty strongly about since instead of his more glamorous usual surroundings he's directing and choreographing a show with zero budget above a gay pub in Victoria (it is hoping for a transfer but I've not heard any rumours of one just yet.) The show has an unusual origin; I can actually remember, years ago, the appearance of some of Jon and Al Kaplan's songs on a spoof website. This fictional musical became a real one when Hunter Bell's book was added and it was staged in New York in 2005; this is its UK professional premiere.
The stage version is very specifically a spoof of the Oscar-winning movie, even opening with Clarice running through the woods, to the accompaniment of a chorus of lambs (who also play all the other roles.) I was worried that it's been too long since I saw the film and I might miss some of the in-jokes but as the show got going more of it kept coming back to me. The performances are all really good, relying heavily on spot-on impressions. Tory Ross as Clarice holds the whole thing together well, and not only managesh to maintain her impershonation of how Jodie Foshter shaysh the letter "Sh" but shomehow keepsh the joke funny for the whole two hoursh. Fabian Hartwell is also spot on as Buffalo Bill, and Leon Kay's lecherous Dr Chilton is a reminder that Anthony Hopkins' was far from being the only OTT performance in the movie. Funnily enough the one character not to be given the impression treatment is the one everyone's taken off at some point; Miles Western instead opting to inject some boggle-eyed menace into Hannibal Lecter, which makes his constant forays into ridiculousness all the funnier.
After having heard so many good things about this show I was a bit worried when the opening felt a bit flat to me, but happily it got better and better, culminating in a great re-enactment of the "night vision goggles" scene in Buffalo Bill's basement. As for the songs, even the most risque spoofs sometimes hold back but this show's origin on the net means there's none of that here so we have songs like "I'd Fuck Me," "Put The Fucking Lotion In The Basket," "It's Very Lonely Being Dead" and Lecter's charming opener, "If I Could Smell Her Cunt," which gets quickly reprised at the end just to make sure you leave the theatre half-worried you might start singing it in the street. So thanks for that. In a great cast another standout is Catherine Millsom as both Catherine (the girl in the well) and her mother; there's a couple of great gags about how often she repeats her daughter's name. Oh, and you get a free badge, I mean what more do you want?
Silence! The Musical by Hunter Bell and Jon & Al Kaplan is booking until the 28th of February at the Above The Stag Theatre.