If you weren’t already aware, you realize pretty quickly that you’re in for something different when you enter Generic Theater to see Silence! The Musical.
The set consists of three huge, ominous looking staircases… and that’s about it. Not that more is really needed. Given that Silence! is a parody, the big focus will be on the actors, but the set does give the audience a little more of the creepy factor that is needed.
The stairs (or more correctly, under the stairs) is home to the musicians for the show. Having cast members move the monstrosities was ambitious enough, but the ensemble deserves a special nod for doing so with musicians aboard while they navigate the electrical cords to the sound system. Some of the transitions were a little rough, but I have no doubt the cast/crew will get a rhythm as the run proceeds.
The light design was well done, though the cues were a little off. Designers Derrion La’Zachan Hawkins and Tina Finnerty made a good use of light to differentiate changes of scene and time, but the actors didn’t always make the shift along with the lights. It’s hard to pinpoint if the issue was the timing of the cues, or the actors not finding their marks, but it needs a little work.
The Generic is a small space, and for that space, the sound was just too loud. In such an intimate setting, there really is no need for body microphones, which would then have allowed the volume of the band to have been brought down. As it was, lyrics in the ensemble numbers were sometimes garbled due to too much volume. Volume aside, the sound of the band was wonderful.
There is no choreographer listed in the credits, and I believe one was needed. There are enough dance numbers in the show to warrant the position, and in ensemble numbers it showed when an actor was out of step. Most notable among the costumes were those of the sheep. Yes, this version has actual sheep as the ensemble/chorus. The simple arm warmers and ear headbands add to the humor and assist in the quick changes required of those Lambs who also play other characters.
Disclaimer: I’m going to assume that everyone has seen the film The Silence of the Lambs. If you haven’t, stop reading and go to Naro Video, rent it on Amazon video, or just prepare to have the ending spoiled… I can’t believe you haven’t seen Silence of the Lambs.
Darden Dickerson hit Clarice’s accent from the first word and played her perfectly hammed up throughout the show. Any questions about Garney Johnson’s age affecting his portrayal of Hannibal the Cannibal are quickly shown to be unfounded. Johnson nails Hannibal’s mannerisms and stare and doesn’t let them go, continuing to tango in character even offstage during a scene change. Jim Keesler never let a comedic moment pass him by, whether as Jack Crawford, Papa Starling, or one of the Lambs begging Bill to “just die already.” Some of best moments were actually little asides and faces made by the Lambs if you were lucky enough to catch them. Avery Malerich likewise made the most of his Lamb time, when he wasn’t lamenting his erectile dysfunction as Miggs, claiming it has never happened to him before as he desperately tries to do something obscene to Clarice (allowing Dickerson the dig of “every time, am I right ladies?”). Alyssa Sortino was tasked with playing a Lamb along with the dual roles of Catherine and Ruth Martin, using her quick transitions to her comedic advantage (Senator Martin likes to throw things at her assistant). Kai White plays up Ardelia’s not so subtle girl crush on roommate Clarice when not in Lamb form, culminating in her big number (which she is not shy about telling the other Lambs to butt out of). Luke Scaros’ portrayal of Buffalo Bill was funny (LOVED the dance on the balcony in the acid wash jeans), but I would have liked to have seen a little more creepy awkwardness to balance the slapstick.
Performances overall were funny, but I felt like a lot of little jokes were thrown away due to poor timing. The cast has a LOT to do during the show, and I get the impression they weren’t quite comfortable enough with their roles to feel free to play. When that comfort level is achieved, I have little doubt the laughs will increase.
The writing combined with the talent on stage and off all but guarantee a good show, but there is still room for improvement. Once the cast gets the rhythm of costume and scene changes (which, again, a tip of my techie hat for maneuvering those stairs), the comedy will flow a little more naturally. I have little doubt that audiences in the coming weeks will leave the theater with sore sides and tears in their eyes. If you’ve seen the show since I did (Oct 15) and laughed soda out of your nose, please let us know in the comments below.
As Nina specifies above, she saw the show on opening weekend. But that was forever ago in theatre time, so check out the final weekend of Silence! The Musical and let us know if her prognostications have come to pass! Thurs, Fri, Sat 8:00pm, Sun 2:30pm. Tix $18 Reg, $15 Student/Senior/Military, $13 Groups 10+. Call (757) 441-2160 or go here to get ‘em.