Serial killer follies

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Wednesday February 1, 2017
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Scott Hayes and Anne Norland dance a tango as cannibal<br>serial killer Hannibal Lecter and FBI novice Clarice Starling in <i>Silence!<br>The Musical,</i> a spoof of <i>Silence<br>of the Lambs</i> at the Victoria Theatre.<br>Photo: Erik Scanlon
Scott Hayes and Anne Norland dance a tango as cannibal
serial killer Hannibal Lecter and FBI novice Clarice Starling in Silence!
The Musical,
a spoof of Silence
of the Lambs
at the Victoria Theatre.
Photo: Erik Scanlon

It's billed as "unauthorized," but that doesn't necessarily mean it's unwelcome by those who could have taken offense. Among the parade of notables to visit Silence! The Musical during its New York run was director Jonathan Demme, who directed Silence of the Lambs, the Oscar-winning movie that had been used to create "an exuberantly gross spoof" according to The New York Times. Demme then urged Jodie Foster, one of the stars of the 1991 movie, to see the show. She slipped unnoticed into the theater, but surprised the cast and audience when she was first on her feet to lead a standing ovation.

The musical began as a gag, a bunch of songs written to entertain friends by adding showtunes to a grisly story. "We never set out to make a musical," said Jon Kaplan, who wrote the songs with brother Al. "It was never meant for an audience."

But those songs found a viral audience on YouTube as well as a producer who suggested creating an actual stage show. Several songs were added, and writer-actor Hunter Bell was brought in to spruce up the script. It debuted in 2005 as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, drew turn-away audiences, and won the festival's best-musical award. Plans to reopen for a commercial run stumbled along until it finally made its official off-Broadway debut in 2011, where it ran for two years. Now it's at the Victoria Theatre as a co-production among original producer Victoria Lang, Cloud 9 Theatricals, and SF's Ray of Light Theatre.

Ray of Light's Jason Hoover is directing Silence! with a local cast playing such iconic cinematic characters as FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Anne Norland), cannibalistic convict Hannibal Lecter (Scott Hayes), and a serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill (Brian Watson) who skins his female victims' corpses to create flesh bodysuits. The musical is faithful to the basics of the film's plot, though any chance to crank up the drama for laughs is taken. And the songs often come from lines of dialogue, although "If I Could Smell Her Cunt" and "Put the Fucking Lotion in the Basket," for example, take on an altered resonance when set to music. Plus, add in a chorus of tap-dancing performers in floppy-eared lamb costumes.

"We worked hard not to take ourselves too seriously," said Bell, who also wrote the popular [title of show], a musical about writing an as-yet unnamed musical. "But we wanted to at least take it seriously enough so it wasn't a nonsense-fest and you could just dismiss it as a dirty joke."

Silence! The Musical will run at the Victoria Theatre through Feb. 25. Tickets are available at silencethemusicalsf.com.

 

Skyler Volpe plays the doomed Mimi in the 20th-anniversary tour of Jonathan Larson's Rent at the Golden Gate Theatre. Photo: Carol Rosegg

'Rent' is due

It's been 20 years since Rent opened on Broadway, and that milestone is being recognized with a 20th anniversary tour of the musical that had a cultural buzz that has only recently been matched by Hamilton. Jonathan Larson's rock-musical take on La Boheme, set among idealistic young artists in the age of AIDS, took on added resonance when Larson died shortly before the musical faced its first audience. The new tour is running Feb. 7-19 at the Golden Gate Theatre, where the first Rent tour had a six-month run in 1999.

This tour is a non-Equity production, signaling a cast that includes many performers at the starts of their careers. Michael Greif's original staging has been recreated by Evan Ensign, who was a resident assistant director during the musical's Broadway run, and original choreographer Marlies Yearby has returned to stage the dances for the new tour. Tickets at shnsf.com.

 

Ready for a 'Revolution'

Set 200 years in the future, The Revolution Will Not Be Harmonized is a new musical comedy about a strange dystopia in which a song can rule the world. It's the first full-length musical written by PianoFight's all-female comedy troupe Chardonnay, and it's the latest attraction on PianoFight's mainstage in the Tenderloin.

In this future, the land is ruled by "Spotif-Eye" and populated by a workforce made up exclusively of freelancers who nonetheless have inflexible work schedules. The main characters are three women: a hair-obsessed lieutenant, a mysterious elder who speaks in song lyrics, and one algorithmically perfect song. Humanity can only be saved by a sisterhood in harmony.

The musical runs Feb. 2-25, and tickets are available at pianofight.com.