Play within a play proves a playful romp

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By Sara Miller

“Curtains,” the newest production at StageDoor Theatre, is a comedy whodunit that pays homage to the brassy musical comedies of the 1950s. “Curtains” was created by the powerhouse musical-theater team of Fred Ebb and John Kander, who were responsible for such great musicals as “Chicago” and “Cabaret.”

The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 2007 and took Broadway by storm with its original music and side-splitting comedic timing. StageDoor’s production, with a cast of 26 high school actors, is sure to bring as much joy to mountain audiences as the original did to Broadway.

As the show unfolds backstage at a Boston theater, where a “cowboy” musical is in the previews, the star of the show dies in front of the cast. In comes Lt. Frank Cioffi, played Jackson Haimes. Haimes is new to life in front of the curtain at StageDoor. He has worked on myriad productions behind the scenes, but “Curtains” will be his debut in the spotlight. Before Detective Cioffi can solve the murder, other murders occur. In typical Broadway fashion, Cioffi loves musical theater and injects himself into the rehearsals while conducting his investigation.
The cast of characters includes Carmen Bernstein (played by Katelyn Ewen), a sharp-tongued co-producer, and her husband, Sidney Bernstein (played by Sam Thompson). A divorced songwriting team (Georgia Hendricks played by Jourdyn Russell and Aaron Fox played by Tanner Buffy) has joined the fray in the hopes of not only saving the show but perhaps saving their splintered marriage, too.
Oscar Shapiro (played by James Landon) is the show’s financial backer, who is devastated by negative reviews and determined to make the show a success. Darrell Grady (played by Joe Demerry) is a theater critic for the Boston Globe who keeps publishing the horrible reviews that keep Shapiro up at night.
Jessica Cranshaw is the over-the-hill actress (played by Kelsey Wilcox) who is knocked off at the beginning of the show and is at the heart of Detective Cioffi’s investigation. The show’s flamboyant director, Christopher Belling (played by Sam Kassman), does his best to keep his actors and dancers like Bobby Pepper (played by Ben Kassman) in line.
No musical is complete without the ingénue love interest. Niki Harris (played by Samantha Raeder) is an impressionable young actress who falls in love with Detective Cioffi and complicates the investigation because all fingers point to her as the murderer. The investigation and the play-within-the-play unfold through energetic choreography by Mary Jean Fowler and two acts filled with catchy tunes.
“As you might expect from a writing team like Ebb and Kander, the music just makes the show. It is whimsical, intricate, beautiful and funny,” says director Nelson Conway. “Our cast is working hard and having a great time putting together a show that harkens back to the days of Broadway’s Golden Age.”

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.