Summer Stage at Hendricken celebrates it's 10th anniversary season with "Curtains", a musical with a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, with additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes. The show is based on the original book and concept by Peter Stone. The Broadway production opened on March 22, 2007 with David Hyde Pierce who won a Tony Award and the show closed on June 29, 2008. The musical is a send-up of backstage murder mystery plots and is set in 1959 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. It follows the fallout when the supremely untalented star of "Robbin' Hood of the Old West" is murdered during her opening night curtain call. Can a police detective who moonlights as a musical theater fan save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens, without getting killed himself? The cast sings of their love for the "Wide Open Spaces of Kansas" near the conclusion of the show when the egregiously untalented leading lady, fading film star Jessica Cranshaw who is a triple threat: she can't sing, act or dance or even remember when to say her lines, collapses during the opening night curtain call. Her death prompts no tears from the cast and crew. News leaks out that Cranshaw is dead, and more than that, she has been murdered. The entire company comes under suspicion while the producer hopes to recast the role with someone who can actually act, sing and dance. Composer Aaron and lyricist Georgia, an estranged couple attempts to retool the songs with Georgia getting roped into replacing the late star.The rest of the cast just wants to go home but lieutenant Frank Cioffi of the Boston Police Department is called in to solve the homicide and has quarantined the theater, keeping everyone trapped inside, including the murderer. Through many twists and turns the clever detective does solve the mystery, fall in love, save the show with much singing and dancing. The 45 member multitalented teenage cast lead by director Brian Codeiro presents another hit show with 21 musical numbers in the show's RI premiere.The acting, singing and dancing of these young people is amazing to behold. Bravo on a job well done.
Brian blocks this huge show beautifully, moving this huge cast around the set wonderfully and giving them many comic bits to do during the show. There are a couple of other murders in the show that will keep you guessing whodunnit all night long. The choreography by Theresa Pearson is inventive and contains many different styles of dancing including tap, jazz, soft shoe,square dance and chorus line which are all executed perfectly by these young performers. The music director, Ritchie Sylvia taught the musical numbers to the talented cast and 19 member orchestra perfectly. He also sings "The Man is Dead" in a Hungarian accent as Sasha to open Act 2 The multitude of costumes are by Janice Nagle while the set is by Brother John Kiernan, complete with proscenium arch and red velvet curtain and two story areas on each side for the dressing rooms.Lighting design is by Tyler Perry who I directed in "Lost in Yonkers" back in 2002. He is now a sophomore at Ithaca College Leading the cast of 53 teen performers is James Patefield who plays the character of Lt. Frank Cioffi. Cioffi is a detective more obsessed with fixing the show than finding his killer, is hilarious. One of his best numbers is "Coffee Shop Nights" where he explains his job to Niki about how community theatre is his only respite from being a cop. James and Tessa do a Fred and Ginger dance to "A Tough Act to Follow" in a fantasy sequence with the ensemble that stops the show. James is no stranger to large roles having played Jean Valjean this past spring in "Les Miserables". He recently graduated from Hendricken and will be a freshman at Muhlenberg College this September. Tessa Ricci who played Eponine in "Les Mis", is darling as the young, naive, Niki who was Cranshaw's understudy. She is suspected of being the killer because her fingerprints have been found on the notes. However Frank falls in love with her at first sight so she can't be the killer. She does an excellent jobe in "A Tough Act to Follow" with James."What Kind of Man" and "It's a Business" is sung by the producer, Carmen, wonderfully played by Malari Martin. Her voice is superb in these two numbers. Jerald Kaplan as Oscar Shapiro, the naive financial backer sings this song with insulting lyrics about critics when they pan the western show. He is a very comic performer having played the uncle in "My Favorite Year" last summer.One of the critics, Daryl Grady of the Boston Globe is played by Ryan Collins who pans the western show. He has a couple of scenes in the show that will keep you spellbound. Carmen's two timing snake of a husband,Sidney Bernstein, is played beautifully by Conor O'Rourke who pretends to be a midget by walking on his knees with tiny shoes attached to them. Sidney is a two timing weasel and blackmailing louse.
Georgia is excellently played by Jade Genga who has some marvelous numbers including "Thataway" and "Thinking of Him". Jade stops the show with "Thinking of Him" where she remembers what being married to Aaron was like which is disagreeable in the first act and how he is wonderful in the second. Aaron is wonderfully played by Graham Duff whose best song is the gorgeous ballad "I Miss The Music'' where he gets to show off his topnotch tenor voice. He just spent a semester in New York and appeared in "Joseph" as Joseph and in "My Favorite Year". Trio number "In the Same Boat" shows three versions of the same song with the first version sung by Georgia, Bambi and Niki while the second is done by Bobby, Randy and Harv. (Luke Doyle is dynamite as Bobby Pepper who is the choreographer of Robbin Hood where he shows off his singing and dancing skills. while Christopher Maymon is a hoot as the tres gay, Randy who minces his way around the stage, receiving many laughs while doing so and his tres gay partner in the show is well played by Michael Squittiere who did an excellent job as Captain Hook in Peter Pan last November.) It shows how the three versions of them work to make a song better and Frank shows them how to do it. The flamboyant director of the show, Christopher Belling who is a little like Roger Debris from "The Producers" is beautifully played by Sean Flaherty who receives long laughter at his comic lines and behavior. He wears a beret and his hair in a pony tail and utters lines like stopping at Holy Cross Church in Boston gave him a religious experience and when Cranshaw is declared dead, he utters it is God's will. Another dynamic performer is Stefano Perti as stage manager, Johnny Harmon of Robbin Hood and his comic performance is a gem in this show. Bambi is wonderfully played by Nicole Cayer with a blonde wig and Betty Boop voice that could shatter glass.She is secretly Carmen's daughter Elaine. Cranshaw is played by Conor O'Rourke who is a hoot in drag as the untalented broad.(He is a very talented actor who can play many different types of roles including Thenandier in "Les Mis".) The ensemble does excellent work, too in "Show People" which sounds like "Join the Circus" from "Barnum", "Kansasland" which sounds like "Oklahoma", "The Woman's Dead" is about Jessica's death with the chorus holding up head shots of her while laughing at her demise while singing a funeral lament which reminds you of the Funeral Song from "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and the show within a show is reminiscent of "Annie Get Your Gun". The ensemble closes the show with "A Tough Act to Follow" as Niki and Frank ride off into the sunset happily ever after. The ensemble threatens the audience not to reveal whodunnit under penalty of death. So for a rollicking good time, be sure to catch the RI premiere of "Curtains". Tell them Tony sent you.