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MORE ON 'Silence! The Musical'

A Skewer of Lamb (Got Any Chianti?)

Dixie Sheridan

Jenn Harris, left, as Clarice Starling and Paul Kandel as Hannibal Lecter in "Silence! The Musical."

Published: August 22, 2005

"Silence! The Musical" winks so hard it's nearly blind. Taking large swatches of Ted Tally's film script for the Oscar-winning 1991 thriller "The Silence of the Lambs" and weaving in intentionally cheesy songs and dishy asides, the librettist Hunter Bell and songwriters Jon and Al Kaplan miss as many opportunities for laughs as they hit.

The targets that they do aim for are dubious. The diabolical psychiatrist/killer Hannibal Lecter (Paul Kandel) delivers a terrible (and vulgar) power ballad about the scent of a woman. Ditto the numbers for the cross-dressing psychopath Buffalo Bill (Stephen Bienskie), which mine profanity for titters as if it was comedy gold.

Elsewhere, the songs are ploddingly literal and unfunny, and long scenes play with nary a joke, save the uncomprehending deadpan of F.B.I.-agent-in-training Clarice Starling (Jenn Harris), or her twangy lisp, which makes a declaration of independence sound like "I can take care of my shelf."

The tireless cast is uniformly delightful, and the director/choreographer, Christopher Gattelli, mounts the show with infectious sass and un-Fringe-like polish. His riffs on Bob Fosse and Agnes de Mille are wittier than the show's cinematic send-ups - though I did appreciate Buffalo Bill's toy View-Master, a cheap substitute for the movie's night-vision goggles.

"Silence!" may have enough of these small touches to please the film's fans and enough musical-theater spoofing - with nods to "Urinetown" and "Spamalot" - to make audiences smile. Side-splitting laughter, alas, is not on the menu.

"Silence! The Musical" runs Thursday at 10:45 p.m. and Sunday at noon at the Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street, West Village; (212) 279-4488.

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Photo: Demolition of the Paramount Theater, 1967
Photo: Demolition of the Paramount Theater, 1967