The composer/lyricist team of Kander and Ebb have more than a few killer Broadway credits – “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and many more. So when they teamed up with singer/songwriter Rupert Holmes and book writer Peter Stone to spoof Broadway musicals in general, and specifically the film noir detective movies of the 1950s, they were equal to the challenge. “Curtains” is the quintessential zany backstage murder comedy.
The show was nominated for eight 2007 Tony Awards with David Hyde-Pierce winning the Best Actor (Musical) award for his portrayal of Lt. Frank Cioffi. Fortunately for us, long-time Stagecrafters member Debbie Landis-Sigler, a huge fan of Hyde-Pierce, caught the production, fell in love with the show, and has been scheming since to direct it at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak.
This is the kind of big-cast production that Stagecrafters does so well. “Curtains” is silly and sassy – the way a spoof ought to be – and the music, under the baton of Julie Malloy, is sumptuous. Best of all, it’s just fun to watch – probably because the banter, the situations, and even the clichés are ones to which a community theatre group such as Stagecrafters, and its loyal audience, can relate.
The story is an over-the-top “whodunit” upon which has been ladled all the absurdity of an old-fashioned musical. It’s a show within a show, set in 1959 Boston as a musical based on the story of Robin Hood – reset in the American wild west – enjoys its big debut. “Curtains” opens with the final production number of “Robbin’ Hood,” and we watch as the underwhelming leading lady collapses during the final curtain call. We later learn she was poisoned, and that no really feels too bad about it.
This prompts the arrival of our hero, Detective Frank Cioffi (the delightful Bob Marselle, of Rochester Hills), who is sent to solve the murder. As luck would have it, he’s a huge theater fan and frequently performs in the local community musicals when taking a break from the homicide beat. And of course, the stage-struck Detective isn’t content to just solve the murder – he must also figure out what’s wrong with the musical, so that it can be reworked into a sure-fire Broadway smash. In fact, as things progress and the murderer strikes again, it seems that Detective Cioffi is more involved in catching the lovely ingénue Niki Harris (played by lovely ingénue Celeste Blanch), than in catching the murderer.
“All us of involved have a connection to this character,” says director Debbie Landis-Sigler of Clawson. “He finds the theatre fulfilling and is willing give his time and talent simply for the love of it. That sounds like most of us,” she says.
This Stagecrafters production is rich with talent and all of the lead characters hold their own. One standout is Denise Kowalelski-Tucker of Livonia, who plays veteran producer Carmen Bernstein with the bravura and vocal range of a true Broadway pro.
Will Det. Cioffi save the day? Will composer Aaron Fox (Tony Battle of Royal Oak) hook back up with his lyricist and ex-wife, Georgia Hendricks (Lynette Kerr-Yeager of Utica)? Or will she run off with choreographer and leading man, Bobby Pepper (Jerry Haines of Berkley)? And will Det. Cioffi feel the same way about Nikki after he unearths her dark secret?
You’ll have fun finding the answers for yourself.
“Curtains” runs January 18 – February 10, 2013, at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak. Advance tickets for performances are $18 on Thursdays and $20 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Show times are at 8 pm on Friday through Saturday, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone at 248-541-6430; all seats are reserved. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2.00 per ticket.
Tony Battle (Aaron Fox)
Celeste Blanch (Niki Harris)
Beth Egan DeGuise (Company)
Deb Dworkin (Bambi Bernét)
Jerry Haines (Bobby Pepper)
Denise Kowalewski-Tucker (Carmen Bernstein)
Michael Falzon (Oscar Shapiro)
Bob Marselle (Lt. Frank Cioffi)
Megan Meade-Higgins (Jessica Cranshaw)
Tom Pagano (Johnny Harmon)
Craig VanKempen (Company/Randy)
Larry Webster (Sydney Bernstein)
Jeff Weiner (Company/Harv)
Steve Worley (Christopher Belling)
Lynette Kerr-Yeager (Georgia Hendricks)
Tom Arwady (Company)
Jake Daley (Company)
Kathleen Duffy (Company)
Audrey Isrow (Company)
Meagan Lefebvre (Company)
Jimmy Luzinski (Company)
Jeffrey Nelson (Company)
Luciana Piazza (Company)
Harmoni Salisbury (Company)
Tony Targan (Company)
Debbie Landis-Sigler (Director)
Noelle Ochoa (Producer)
Julie Malloy (Music Director)
Amy Wilson (Producer)
Valerie Mould (Choreographer)