When you’re in the mood for just sheer frothy fun and music by Kander & Ebb (the book is by Rupert Holmes), then “Curtains” is both a witty send-up of theatre tropes and a lovingly nostalgic who-done-it.
This is a fun show to help bring in spring; it’s zesty and bursting with madcap life.
The story is simple—boy meets girl over a murder scene and eventually the murder(s) are solved—yes, there are more than one, but all tastefully done—secrets are outed, people realize their true callings, people fall in (and back in) love, and above all, the show must go on.
During the Boston tryout of a new musical about the old west (called Robbin Hood), the leading lady is murdered on opening night as the curtain goes down. Over the next few days, as the cast and crew are locked in at the theatre (not only does the murder need to be solved, but the play needs a bit of a re-write) a couple of more people die, a new star is born out of the songwriting team, and the lead detective turns out to be an incredibly gifted thespian-director who shoots ideas to the long-suffering director and helps to get everything back on track.
It’s all marvelously campy, silly and relaxing fun.
The production by Arlington Players is smartly done and the cast perfectly suited to playing a noirish theatre piece. Joan Lawrence on costumes, Larissa Norris for makeup and hair designer Kat Brais all deserve kudos for creating the looks that perfectly ground the show in time and place.
The cast is a large one, but luckily the Thomas Jefferson Theatre has a large stage to contain the dancing and singing and numbers of people bustling about to get this show revamped so it can go on to Broadway.
Of the lead characters, Judy Lewis as Carmen Bernstein, the producer of this rambunctious, musical oater, gets the best lines. Her comedic timing is near-flawless and she can zing with the best. She’s wry and dry like a good martini.
Eric Kennedy as Lt. Frank Cioffi has an uncanny resemblance to the young Patrick Duffy and knows how to work an “aw-shucks” grin. He is perfectly matched by Maura Lacy as Niki Narris, his ethereal, virginal love interest.
The rest of the very adept cast includes Jessi Shull (as Bambi); Chuck Dluhy (Christopher Belling); Larry Grey, Jr. (Sidney Bernstein); Shakil Azizi as Aaron Fox; Josh Cleveland as Daryl Grady; Emma Moran (Jenny Harmon); Carrie Kirby (Georgia Hendricks, the beleaguered stage manager trying to hold it all together under Equity rules); Brandon Steele (Bobby Pepper); and Bob McGrath (Oscar Shapiro).
The ensemble sings beautifully together. Sterling Beard, Cody Boehm, Erin Branigan, Carol Jean Clark, Kyle Chiavetta, Sirena Dib, Craig Goeringer, Katie Beth Hicks, Tami Howie, Mario Leone, Anya Newsome, Juwan Palmer, Dean Reichard, Carolyn Ricks, Karen Toth lend their voices and dancing skills to some very tight choreography and pull it off seamlessly.
The show has a live orchestra, conducted by Scott Richards. This adds a lot to the immediacy of the moment and helps to keep the pace cracking along.
Director/choreographer Lisa Anne Bailey is responsible for the tight timing of the entrances and exits and for a clear understanding that zaniness of this sort needs good pacing. Under her guidance, you feel this is a troupe that actually just performs together all the time.
One caveat is that there seem to be some dead spots on the stage, sound-wise. There were a couple of spots where the voices (whether speaking or singing) were just lost. The cast was miked and the balance between the orchestra and cast was very even. But it didn’t detract from the overall fun of the shenanigans on the stage.
This is a fun show to help bring in spring; it’s zesty and bursting with madcap life. And we all can use a little bit of escapism, which “Curtains” amply provides.
Advisory: Smoking gunshots.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
“Curtains” runs from April 26 – May 11, 2019, at Arlington Players at Thomas Jefferson Theatre, Thomas Jefferson Community Center, Arlington, VA. For more information, please click here.