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Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Silence! The Musical
Blank Canvas Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's recent review of An Octoroon

Kelly Strand and Brian Altman
Photo by Andy Dudik
If Blank Canvas Theatre were a patient it would most probably be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. The same folks who amaze audiences with such theatrical classics as Our Town, Twelve Angry Men, and Of Mice and Men just as quickly take a walk on the wild side with musical parodies such as Reefer Madness, Batboy the Musical, Triassic Parq the Musical, and Texas Chainsaw Musical (complete with its own "blood zone").

So what is new from the masters of the classic and macabre? Silence! The Musical, which opened to sold out audiences and is still running strong (through November 5, 2016). This bloodless take on the 1991 psycho-thriller brings together, in song and dance, Chef Hannibal Lecter, lisping FBI trainee Clarice Starling, and newbie serial killer Buffalo Bill.

What the show lacks in blood and gore it makes up for in slapstick and schmaltz, including a herd of background singing sheep, new uses for a ballpoint pen, full frontal nudity (but not quite), and really adult language. Use of the "C" word, the "F" word, and a few other letters is rampant and are even used in song titles and lyrics. This is one occasion you will want to leave grandma and the kiddies at home.

The show surprisingly garnered a few awards during its Off- and Off Off-Broadway run, including the 2012 Alliance Award for Best New Musical as well as a listing on Time Magazine's Top 10 Plays and Musicals of 2012.

The show begins with the flock (Trey Gilpen, Mitch Manthey, Tonya Broach, BJ Colangelo, Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski, David Turner, Connor Reese, and Kat Glover) singing the opening theme song "Silence of the Lambs" while cavorting on stage. Lisping FBI trainee Clarice (Kelly Strand) wants to prove her mettle and is assigned to interview Hannibal Lecter (Brian Altman) because of her high grades in college psych and dance courses. Hannibal, it seems, holds the key to a rash of current abductions of full-figured women.

The interview turns into a give and take dance (actually a tango titled "Quid Pro Quo") as Clarice seeks information and Hannibal plans his escape. Thrown into the mix is Clarice's dead father, Papa Starling (Mitch Manthey), making a ghostly appearance, a whiny victim named Catherine (BJ Colangelo), her mother, Senator Ruth Martin (Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski), Dr. Chilton (Trey Gilpen) who runs the Chesapeake State Hospital, and serial killer Buffalo Bill (Joe Virgo) whose aspiration in life is to stalk, kill and skin overweight women in order to fashion a "woman suit" that will fit off the rack. The production is expertly directed by Jonathan Kronenberger who allows the cast free rein in their comic interpretations.

Will Hannibal help Clarice? Will he escape? Will Clarice catch Buffalo Bill before he can off Catherine? Will creepy Dr. Chilton find a date? Will Catherine stop whining? Will the sheep ever shut up and become silent as advertised? This and more riddles will be revealed for those who venture to the comfortably cool (bring a sweater or light jacket) theater known as Blank Canvas.

In spite of the small acting space, the cast and crew do an amazing job utilizing every inch of stage. The constant arranging of the three stage platforms could be reduced to save time. Sound is even and lighting is spot on. The set itself is very creative, especially with the rolling "security door" that represents Lecter's cell.

You will find yourself nervously laughing at all the naughty bits in this musical send-up of the classic film. The musical is full of shock value that goes for the throat. It's an embarrassingly delightful evening of farcical theater that will entertain those not afraid of things that go "F" in the night.

Silence! The Musical is directed by Jonathan Kronenberger with music direction by Heidi Herczeg and choreography by Katie Zarecki. The stage is managed by Brittany Gaul with costume design by Jenniver Sparano, lighting design by Cory Molner, and set and sound design by Patrick Ciamacco.

The Blank Canvas Theatre production of Silence! The Musical will run through November 5, 2016. The theater is located in Suite 211 in the 78th Street Studios Complex at 1305 West 78th Street in Cleveland, Ohio (directions and show times are found at the Blank Canvas website). Tickets may be purchased by going online at

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