By Jim Roberts
“I’ve done some vulgar stuff,” Shon M. Stacy mused after directing a rehearsal of “Silence! The Musical.” “This will top it.”
The off-Broadway show is billed as the “unauthorized” parody of “The Silence of the Lambs,” the 1991 film that won five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay). How vulgar is it? Imagine Hannibal Lecter singing “If I Could Smell Her C***” or Jame Gumb (aka “Buffalo Bill”) singing “Put The F***ing Lotion In The Basket.”
“I’m an edgier guy,” Stacy said. “I don’t shy away from the more risqué stuff. I think it’s important that people challenge themselves.”
Darden Dickerson will play Clarice Starling, the FBI heroine originally portrayed by Jodie Foster. “When I first heard there was a musical interpretation of ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ I lost my mind,” she said. “I looked at the soundtrack, and I was disgusted and just horrified, and that’s what made it so perfect. I said, ‘Oh, I have to do this.’”
Garney Johnson will play Lecter, the imprisoned serial killer immortalized in film by Anthony Hopkins. “I auditioned knowing I just wanted to be in the show,” Johnson said. “Even if I were just FBI Guy No. 1. The show is so funny. Everyone gets their moments.”
Johnson will shave his beard for the role and don the iconic mask, but he won’t get to recreate the famous slurp that follows Hopkins’ line about eating liver with “fava beans and a nice chianti.” Clarice steals it from him.
“I think it brings homage to the fact that no one’s going to do it better than the original,” Stacy explained. “So we just make fun of it and move on.”
Luke Scaros will play “Buffalo Bill,” the serial killer Starling is pursuing. “The more I read the script,” Scaros said, “the more I was like, ‘Is it wrong to like Buffalo Bill this much? Why am I enjoying this so much?’”
Spoiler alert: He will tuck.
“This was a casting deal-breaker,” Stacy said. “I told him from day one: ‘This is happening. You will tuck, and you will present. Are you comfortable with this?’ … I just don’t think there’s a way that you could do it without it.”
(Here’s a behind-the-scenes twist: Scaros is a graduate student at Regent University. So how has the private Christian school reacted to his participation in the show? “It depends on who you ask,” he said. “My professors and everyone—they’re extremely encouraging. They’re actually coming.”)
The other star of the show is a chorus of lambs that supplements the action on stage. Buffalo Bill’s “reveal” scene, for example, features the lambs performing a “big, gay kick line” with glitter being shot in the air. “Those lambs are busting their ass,” Stacy said. “They’re hysterical. I love them to death.”
The cast and crew have watched the movie as a group, but they all stress that seeing it is not a prerequisite for enjoying the musical. “Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ll enjoy it,” Johnson said. “But if you’ve watched it—especially if you’ve watched it very recently—there’s a lot of things that you’ll get that you might not quite catch if it’s been a while since you’ve seen the movie.”
Stacy noted that the book for “Silence!” was written by Hunter Bell, who also wrote “[title of show],” which he directed in 2014. It’s taken Stacy the last two years to secure the rights to produce “Silence!” in Norfolk, and he makes no apologies for the show’s salacity.
“You can’t do a parody without going for it,” he said, “so … yeah.”
Generic Theatre, located under Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, will present “Silence! The Musical” from Oct. 14 through Nov. 6. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 with discounts available for students, military, seniors and groups of 10 or more. For more information, visit generictheater.org or the Generic’s Facebook page.