The Community Players third show of their 90th anniversary season is the Rhode Island premiere of the hilarious musical comedy whodunit, "Curtains". The Broadway production opened on March 22, 2007 with David Hyde Pierce who won a Tony Award as Best Actor and closed on June 29, 2008. The original show was nominated for eight 2007 Tony Awards. This rousing musical has show-stopping tunes by the legendary Broadway team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, with additional lyrics and book by Rupert Holmes and original book and concept by Peter Stone. The musical is a send-up of a backstage murder mystery plots and is set in 1959 at Boston's Colonial Theatre, the story follows the fallout when the supremely untalented star of "Robbin' Hood of the Old West" is murdered during her opening night curtain call. It is up to a police detective who moonlights as a musical theater fan to save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens, without getting killed himself. The cast of the show within a show sings of their love for the "Wide Open Spaces of Kansas" as "Curtains" begins "Robbin Hood" ends 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. When news leaks out 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 show with Georgia getting roped into playing the lead. Everyone 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. Director Sandy Cerel, musical director Ron Procopio and choreographer Tim Reid create a terrific musical extravaganza that will leave the audience breathless at the execution of this multitalented cast.
Sandy blocks this huge show beautifully and gives them many comic bits to perform as these wacky characters. There are a couple of other murders in the show that will keep you guessing whodunnit all night long. The musical direction by Ron is topnotch as he conducts an excellent eight piece orchestra and plays lead keyboards. He also sings "The Man is Dead" in a Hungarian accent as Sasha to open Act 2. The trumpet riffs by Taylor Temple in "Thataway" are fantastic in this show. The choreography by Tim is stunning and contains many different styles including ballet, jazz, soft shoe, square dance and chorus line which are executed perfectly by this energetic cast. Hard working stage manager Cherry Cartier and her crew do excellent work on the scene changes.The lighting design is by Nate Wheatley and the gorgeous costumes are by Pam Jackson. Leading this talented cast is Greg Geer, who plays Lt. Cioffi. Cioffi's detective is more obsessed with fixing the show than finding the murderer and Greg is hilarious in this role. 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. Cioffi and Niki do a Fred and Ginger dance to "A Tough Act to Follow" with the ensemble in a fantasy sequence that stops the show. Jennifer Mischley plays the young, naive Niki who was Cranshaw's understudy. She is fantastic in this role as Niki 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 he reasons that she can't be the killer. She does an excellent job with her soprano voice on "Wide Open Spaces" and "Kansasland" with the chorus as well as "A Tough Act to Follow" with Greg. Jennifer and Greg have terrific chemistry together in this show. Gorgeous red head, Shannon Glazer is terrific as Carmen Bernstein whose character reminds you of Mama Rose from "Gypsy". Her powerhouse voice is heard in "What Kind of Man" which is about theater critics which sounds like "The Grass is Always Greener" from "Woman of the Year" and in "It's a Business" where she explains she is only concerned about the box office receipts and in not being a stage mother. Shannon does a splendid Charleston with the boys during this song. Brian Mulvey is Oscar Shapiro, the naive financial backer also sings "What Kind of Man" with insulting lyrics about the critics when they pan their western musical and glowing ones when they get a good review. One of the critics of the Boston Globe, Daryl Grady is played by Joe Casey. 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 beautifully played by Eric Barbato . He does a great job as this two timing weasel and blackmailing louse.
Georgia is excellently played by Kate Arthur. She has some marvelous songs including "Thataway" which is a big saloon hall number with the chorus and "Thinking of Him" where she remembers what being married to Aaron was like. The song is derogatory about him in the first act and how wonderful he is in the second. Rich Canedo is wonderful as Aaron. He and Kate sing "What Kind of Man" with Shannon and Brian but he gets to show off his topnotch tenor voice in the gorgeous ballad "I Miss the Music" where he reminisces how dynamic he and Georgia are together. John Kander states this song is dedicated to his late partner Fred Ebb. There is an interesting aspect about this show where three versions of a trio number "In the Same Boat". The first is done by Georgia, Niki and Bambi, the second by Bobby, Randy and Harv and the last version by the ensemble. Tim Crepeau is dynamic as Bobby Pepper who is the choreographer of Robbin Hood where he shows off his singing and dancing skills. He plays the jealous beau of Georgia who tries to keep Aaron away from her. Tommy Lavallee is a hoot as the gay cowboy, Randy receiving many laughs while doing so and his gay partner, Russ is well played by Chris Margadonna. Tommy leads the chorus in "Kansasland". Of course Frank shows the cast how to do the song properly in the third version. Kevin Killavey is marvelous as the tres gay British director who is reminiscent of Roger Debris from "The Producers". He obtains sustained laughter at his comic one liners and outrageous behavior. Some of his funny lines include that 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. Kevin's over the top performance as this flamboyant director is right on the money. Another energetic performer is Joe Wilkicki as Johnny, the stage manager of Robbin Hood who has a secret. Bambi, the dumb blonde is wonderfully played by Christine Larivere. Bambi is related to someone in the show and wants to make it on her talent. Christine performs a dynamite ballet in "Kansasland" while wearing a skimpy Indian outfit. Kim Alessandro is a hoot as the untalented Jessica Cranshaw. Kim is a talented actress who won two Motif Awards for acting. The ensemble does topnotch work in "Show People" which is one of their best dance numbers and it sounds like "Join the Circus" from "Barnum", Kansasland" which sounds like "Oklahoma" when they spell out the words at the end of it., "The Woman's Dead" which is about Jessica's death with a wig head brought out by Johnny while they laugh at her demise. This funeral lament is reminiscent of the Funeral Song from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and the ensembles voices soar in this number. Robbin Hood reminds you of "Annie Get Your Gun". The ensemble closes the show with "A Tough Act to Follow" and 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.