“Curtains” a Funny, Ambitious, Bad Play-Within-A-Play
By Skip Sheffield
There are some good things about “Curtains,” the little-performed 2007 Kander & Ebb musical comedy playing its Florida premiere at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton through March 26.
The large cast is very strong, with several standouts. The costumes are ornate and hilarious. Even the sets are funny in a cartoonish sort of way.
There is a reason “Curtains” is seldom performed. It is not a great show. It is a four-headed hydra of a play-within-a-play. First it is a ridiculous cowboy musical called “Robbin’ Hood” having a tryout in Boston.It is also an excessively complicated murder mystery with the entire cast and crew of “Robbin’ Hood” as suspects. It is a romance between a composer and his estranged wife and a detective and an ingénue. Most important, it is a valentine to “show people” who never give up on making the show go on.
It sounds promising on paper, but the original book by Peter Stone and script by Rupert Holmes does not offer the actors a strong vehicle. The songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb with additional lyrics by Rupert Holmes are mostly silly and repetitious, with titles like “Wide Open Spaces,” “Show People,” “Thataway” and “A Tough Act to Follow.”
The setup is funny. Not only is “Robbin’ Hood” a lame show, it stars an inept diva named Jessica Cranshaw (Wick Theatre vice president and theater curator Kimberly Wick), who cannot sing, dance or even remember her lines. Mercifully Jessica is killed offstage, setting the murder mystery in motion.
This prompts the entrance of Boston Police Lt. Frank Ciaffi (Tony Edgerton in young JFK mode) a Colombo-style detective who is also clearly stage-struck (he has done good work in community theater). So not only does Ciaffi sequester the “Robbin’ Hood” company in the theater so he can investigate the murder, he becomes involved in re-casting and re-writing the play-within-a-play with lyricist Georgia Hendricks (Julie Kleiner) pressed into service as leading lady over understudy Niki Harris (Mallory Newbrough), a winsome lass who catches the eye of Lt. Ciaffi.
The recasting enables composer Aaron Fox (Michael Ursua) to cozy up to his lyricist ex-wife Georgia (Kleiner), for whom her still carries a torch. Ursua, who is also musical director and plays onstage piano, is far and away the best male singer, and he has the best song: “I Miss the Music” sung in a beautiful tenor.
Oh there is more, much more in this overstuffed plot. There is tough-as-nails producer Carmen Bernstein (Angie Radosh in a star turn); egotistical, fey director Christopher Belling (Kevin Healey); vicious Boston Globe theater critic Daryl Grady (Cliff Burgess); chorus boy star and choreographer Bobby Pepper (Alex Jorth); Carmen Bernstein’s star-struck but unappreciated daughter Bambi (Emily Tarallo); scheming co-producer Sidney Bernstein (Alan Gerstel); light-in-the-loafers stage manager Johnny Harmon (Brian Padgett), and more, much more, chorus girls and boys.
“Curtains” earns points for courage and effort, but after the initial premise, we get it. We get it already.
Tickets are $70-$80. Call 561-995-2333 or go to www.thewick.org.