Pace can be everything when it comes to a musical production at your local community theatre that happens to be pulling you away from a weekend in thrall to the full-court intensity of March Madness.
When you’ve been mesmerized by the hyperkinetic to-ing and fro-ing of NCAA basketball’s sacred season, shifting gears to other entertainment pursuits can be dangerous business, should the alternative fare – televised or otherwise – not keep up.
Fair or not, that was the unintended psychic landscape we brought to this weekend’s production of Curtains at the Candlelight Theatre. Fortunately, for us and an as-usual happy packed house, the cast of Curtains came ready to move the ball briskly, bringing a plucky, rollicking game to the stage that made no one sorry they were missing a half or so of a contest that could be recorded for later viewing.
For context – and because there’s no point in rewriting something that does the job quite nicely – we’ll shamelessly borrow from the program write up by John Simon of Broadway Buzz:
The story – A pre-Broadway company is in the Boston tryout of the cheesy western Robbin Hood, when the famous has-been leading lady collapses during the curtain call and soon dies in hospital – poisoned. Lt. Cioffi, conducting the investigation, quarantines the cast backstage at the Colonial Theater….
Curtains amalgamates three diverse genres: the backstage musical, the show within a show, and the murder mystery.
Curtains premiered in Los Angeles in 2006 and moved to Broadway in 2007 with a cast that included David Hyde Pierce (Dr. Niles Crane on NBC’s Frazier), garnering eight Tony Award nominations and decent reviews. The show closed its Broadway run a year later after 511 performances.
It is possible the show wasn’t quite edgy or unpredictable enough for New York critics, but its not-too-shabby success on the Great White Way showed there was a market for a classically upbeat, cheeky “retro musical,” the kind of characteristics that make it a perfect fit for the Candlelight stage.
From the opening tip-off we’re introduced to Jessica Cranshaw, the aging starlet whose voice and effort probably peaked 15 to 20 years earlier in her career. Connie Pelesh plays Cranshaw with Bette Davis-like gravitas, sniffing at the peons around her who have no sense of the greatness she once inhabited.
Connor McAndrews delights as Christopher Belling, Robbin Hood’s devilish director, Donna Dougherty is spot on as producer Carmen Bernstein, the tough, long-suffering wife of husband Oscar (Shaun Yates) and Tristan Horan carries off Lt. Frank Cioffi with an entirely believable Boston brogue.
The entire cast delivers an energetic, spirited performance, seamlessly flowing from song to schtick and back again. Curtains shoots a good 90% from the line.
By the time the curtains closed on Curtains, our minds were far from fixated on the night’s ‘Elite 8’ showdown as we reveled in another fun outing at the Candlelight in its 50th year. But we weren’t unhappy to find the game in OT when we got home.
Photography by Tisa Della-Volpe