Nothing screams "camp" quite like musical theater, particularly when the creators brew up an enthralling amalgam of singing, dancing and cannibalism.
"Silence! The Musical," playing through Sunday at Salvage Vanguard Theatre, turns the gruesome story of Hannibal Lecter (Huck Huckaby), Buffalo Bill (David Ponton) and Clarice Starling (Amy Downing) into a hilarious, raunchy and surprisingly un-scary escapade.
Originally produced in 2003 as an Internet musical (along the lines of "Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog"), the show’s soundtrack garnered such a fan base that the creators developed it into a stage production that won the 2005 New York Fringe Festival’s award for Outstanding Musical.
Brought to Austin by director Michael McKelvey and Doctuh Mistuh Productions, the unauthorized parody of "The Silence of the Lambs" is another in the company’s lineage of off-beat shows, starting with their inaugural production of "Evil Dead the Musical" in 2009. In his efforts to produce the things that "most people won’t do but need to be done," McKelvey apparently stalked his way into the rights for this show — sending upwards of 30 emails to make it happen. And Austin’s theater scene is (probably) all the richer for it.
The show is simultaneously delightful and appalling.
It works whether you’ve seen the original film or not (a consummate scaredy cat, I’ve managed to avoid it thus far), but the humor is even richer if you pick up on more of the references.
And it’s certainly not a show for all ages, however, with a number of song titles that aren’t remotely suitable for printing.
As the serial killer Buffalo Bill, Ponton absolutely shines in one such number, and his commitment to the role is eye-ball searingly impressive. Downing also brings her astute comedic timing and flair for the absurd to her heavily accented performance of Clarice.
Madison Piner’s choreography keeps the energy up and the chorus of lambs on their toes, and Hannah Marie Fonder (Dream Clarice/Lamb) deserves particular recognition for enthusiastically completing some decidedly awkward dance moves.
The production team does a lot with a little, deftly moving us between worlds with a minimal set design and simple costumes. Similarly, the guts and gore of the show remain effectively poised in the balance between cheesy and revolting.
"Silence!" garners just as many groans as giggles, and though it’ll likely make you cringe at times, it also makes for an entertaining night out.