Monday, October 24, 2016

Blank Canvas challenges audience sensibilities with SILENCE! THE MUSICAL

Pat Ciamacco, the curmudgeon of glee and horror, is at it again.  While it seems almost by chance, the artistic director of Blank Canvas selects the likes of OUR TOWN, TWELVE ANGRY MEN and OF MICE AND MEN.  But most often Ciamacco digs up such scripts as THE WILD PARTY (a play about decadence and uninhibited sexual behavior),  REEFER MADNESS (the “truth” about using marijuana), BAT BOY THE MUSICAL (the tale of a large-eyed fanged human child), TRIASSIC PARQ THE MUSICAL (a songfest 65-million years in the making), DEBBIE DOES DALLAS (a stage version of the 1978 pornographic film), and TEXAS CHAINSAW MUSICAL (the story of a handsome serial killer and his overly affectionate momma, staged complete with a “blood zone,” where members of the audience chose, if they desired, to be bathed in fake blood!) 

His newest offering is SILENCE!  THE MUSICAL, which opened to an appreciative sold-out audience.  It is based on THE 1991 psychologically thrilling film about Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic serial killer and his relationship with Clarice Starlin, a young FBI trainee, who seeks the killer’s advice to apprehend Buffalo Bill, another serial killer.

No blood this time.  Instead,, we have a herd of sheep, an errant ballpoint pen that sets the fiend free, full frontal “male” nudity, and adult language.

Yes, as a New York newspaper said in its review, ”This Lambs parody is as irreverent, filthy and funny as THE BOOK OF MORMAN!”  If you need any more proof that this is not THE SOUND OF MUSIC or even FUN HOME, the score includes “If I Could Smell Her C*nt,” “I’d F*ck Me,” “Put the F*cking Lotion in the Basket,” and, if it weren’t enough the first time, a reprise of the C*nt song.

It may surprise many to know that in 2005 this script was selected as the Outstanding Musical at the New York International Fringe Festival, was listed in The 2011 Time Magazine Top 10 Plays and Musicals, and in 2012 it was anointed with the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Musical.

The story, which is told by an flock of lambs (Tonya Broach, BJ Colangelo, Dawn Sniadak-Yomokoski, David Turner, Connor Reese and Kat Glover), who act as a Greek chorus who sings, dances, and narrates the goings on.  The plot centers on Clarice Starling (Kelly Strand), a lisping student at the FBI Academy who hopes to work with the Behavioral Science Unit tracking down serial killers.  Her desire comes from an attempt to emulate her deceased father’s career.  She is sent to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Altman),  a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.  He helps her solve the FBI’s latest case, the mass killings of “zoftig” size-14 women by James Gumb (Joe Virgo), better known as Buffalo Bill.  BB believes himself to be transsexual, but is so psychotic he can’t qualify for sex assignment surgery.  He kills overweight women so he can remove their skin and fashion a “woman suit” for himself. 

Things get dicey when hefty Catherine Baker Martin (BJ Colangelo), the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin (Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski) is kidnapped by Buffalo Bill.  A full scale FBI search is undertaken, headed by Jack Crawford (Mitch Manhey), the agent-in-charge of the FBI at Quantico, Virginia.  The bumbling and lecherous Dr. Frederick Chilton (Trey Gilpin), the director of the Chesapeake State Hospital where Lecter is confined, keeps getting in the way of the investigation.  Eventually Clarice, with clues provided by Lecter, tracks down Buffalo Bill, Catherine is set free, Lecter moves to a tropical island and calls Clarice to say goodbye.   (Honest, that’s the story.  Could I make stuff up like that?)

The production moves right along.  The vocals are adequate, with a few of the lambs and leads (mainly Dawn Sniakak-Yamokoski) hitting the right musical notes, the acting is farcically correct, and the dancing cleverly klutsy.  Most importantly, the laughs roll along.  

The BC band (Heidi Herczeg, David W. Coxe, Colin Dees and Jason Stebelton) has to be congratulated for keeping the volume down and not, as has been the case at this theatre, of drowning out the performers.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  SILENCE! THE MUSICAL is a typical Blank Canvas escapist musical comedy which will entertain the cult audience which the theatre has developed. Ciamacco knows his patrons and their tastes and has hit another home run with this script!
Blank Canvas’s SILENCE! THE MUSICAL  runs though November 5 , 2016 in its near west side theatre, 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland.  Get directions to the theatre on the website. Once you arrive at the site, go around the first building to find the entrance and then follow the signs to the second floor acting space.  For tickets and directions go to

Next up at BC is local playwright Stuart Hoffman’s KISS KISS BANG from November 10-13.  That is followed by CABARET, yes, the “Wilkommen,” “Maybe This Time,” and “Right This Way Your Table’s Waiting” musical.