ABC has announced Galavant, a new musical comedy series about knights, fair maidens, and tyrannical kings, will be coming soon to primetime TV. While Medieval Times and musical comedy seem like an odd combination, this is not the first or last time that Broadway and geek culture have collided. In this new series, I will take a look at musicals that fall firmly in geek culture and Broadway theater culture and examine the good, the bad, and the lady parts in Geeks on Stage.
What is Silence! The Musical? Silence! is a musical comedy adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, a horror crime thriller best-known for the terrifying Hannibal Lector. Clarice, an FBI agent, is looking for the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, and in her investigation, she is forced to seek the help of Lector, Buffalo Bill’s former therapist and a known cannibal.
The Good Silence! is a show tailor-made for fans of Silence of the Lambs. The writers know their source material inside and out, and more importantly, they understand why people love this movie. It is a fantastic adaptation because of the little details that made it into the script and the staging.
Silence of the Lambs might not seem like an obvious film for a musical comedy adaptation, but the dark humor and outlandish villains of Hannibal Lector and Buffalo Bill translate shockingly well to stage. The story is so well-known now that it is easy to forget how bonkers-crazy it is. A psychotic transgender serial killer is kidnapping large women so that he can use their skin to make a woman suit, and the only people who can stop him are a vaguely Southern Jodie Foster and a sociopath Anthony Hopkins who hungers for human flesh. Silence of the Lambs always walked the fine line between horror and comedy, and Silence! stands firmly on the side of comedy with its horrific revelations played for laughs.
The Bad Silence! is a show tailor-made for fans of Silence of the Lambs. Audiences with only a passing interest in the original film will probably get a kick out of it, but only hardcore fans of the film will probably catch all the jokes and get the most out of the experience.
The Music The soundtrack for Silence! is interesting because the music itself isn’t original, but songwriters Jon and Al Kaplan are very skillful at imitating Broadway song styles. A Broadway ballad, the big closer before the intermission, or the light-hearted song-and-dance number, these guys can write a song that sounds like another famous Broadway song, and that is admirable in a way.
Most of the songs are really just elaborate framework for the writers to get in more jokes, like Lector’s ballad “If I Could Smell Her C—,” and I suspect that is all they were aiming for. As a result, the songs are novelties, something to show a friend, share a laugh, and move on.
What About the Ladies? There is a reason why Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice is so memorable, wonky accent and all. She is tough and capable in a male-dominated field, but her reason for wanting to catch Buffalo Bill gives her vulnerability. Silence! is obviously played more for laughs, but Clarice is still the main protagonist and gets the most time on-stage of any character.
Geek Factor I would place the geek factor fairly high for Silence!. Silence of the Lambs is a well-regarded film with five Academy Award wins including Best Picture, but it also has a dedicated cult-like following which Silence! appeals to. Silence of the Lambs is only somewhat geeky on its own, but the dedicated fan base and the inside jokes in parodies like Silence! make it geeky.
Its Place in Geek Culture Silence of the Lambs is one of the most critically-acclaimed horror movies ever. Horror is usually considered a lesser genre by Academy Award voters, and considering all the weird elements at work in Silence of the Lambs, it is kind of shocking that it was so well-received. Transgender serial killers, human suits made from the skin of overweight women, a tough Southern female FBI agent, psychological manipulation, a sophisticated cannibal who enjoys human liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti – this should not have happened. Most of these parts on their own should have been too weird for the Academy Awards, but all together, it worked somehow. What was niche became mainstream, and while genre films still struggle to be recognized as art, films like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Spike Jonze’s Her have broken through.
Is it Worth a Look? Film geeks and Silence of the Lambs aficionados will get more of the humor, but it is still a very funny show. The off-Broadway production closed last year, so it will be more difficult to see it, but if a community theater stages it, check it out.