MIDVALE — Curtains is an amusing and witty musical within a musical, produced by Sugar Factory Playhouse and West Jordan Theater Arts, and though Rupert Holmes‘s script is about solving a murder, the entertaining play is not any deeper than a sitcom. However, this musical was worth the time because of the clever and creative ways director Denise Gull and choreographer Kassidy Gull enhanced the original script.
Curtains opens with the show within the show called Robbin’ Hood, a western musical featuring the untalented leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw. She is promptly murdered onstage and Lieutenant Frank Cioffi comes on the scene to investigate. He quarantines the theater, keeping the cast until he finds the killer, and throughout this time the group works hard to improve the show and avoid being the next target.
Though a community theater, the quality peaked throughout the show to a more professional taste due to the talented directing of Denise Gull. Her choice to have the actors perform down the aisles and on the floor in front of the stage was immersive. Using multi-colored flashlights in the musical number “They Did It” was both effective and comical.
These moments helped to overcome the difficulty of how the show began. I wish Gull had chosen to put a microphone on Melanie Turner, playing the leading lady of the opening number. Though Turner was great with her part, I felt she couldn’t properly portray the role she was given due to age difference with her replacement. Denise Gull’s pacing was excellent, except for the scenes with only two characters onstage and the closing of the first act, where the hanging of Sydney Bernstein was hard to see with all the actors in the way and the lack of a rope hanging down I had trouble understanding what had just occurred.
Particularly for an actor newly back to the stage after decades of absence, Mark Fotheringham, who played the director of Robbin’ Hood, Christopher Belling, deserved a standing ovation. He not only brought life to the show, but he also made my date and I laugh so hard our sides hurt. His astounding British accent, intensified with over-the-top inflection and punctuation, kept me on the edge of my seat.
Kris Karns played Lieutenant Cioffi, and held the role very well. He had great stage presence and carried the show during the slower numbers in John Kander and Fred Ebb‘s score, particularly when it was only him and one other actor onstage. Niki was played by Kelsi Jeffery, and though at first she wasn’t quite present in her character, as the show blossomed, a truth came through her acting that was enjoyable.
I thought Kristen Hickman, playing Georgia, did a wonderful job convincing the audience she was not comfortable onstage to embracing her childhood desire of being the leading lady. She proved her performing abilities in the number, “Thataway!” This progression also supported the plotline of the director having such faith in her when he could have used Niki, who was already prepared for the leading lady role.
My favorite moment in the show was the performance of the song “The Woman’s Dead,” the cast’s response to the death of their horrible leading lady. It was both satisfying and hilarious, and the choreography from Kassidy Gull (who also played Bambi), made the song feel like a mash up of theater warm-ups and a deep, passionate modern dance number. Overall, the dancing matched the comedy quality of the script and was very well choreographed. Execution on the ensemble’s part was not always perfect, with some stumped faces trying to remember dance moves in “It’s a Business,” “Kansasland,” and the final version of “In The Same Boat.”
Everyone was easy to hear throughout besides leading lady Crenshaw, and the music and sound were perfectly executed, with my only concern the opening number of the second act “They Did It,” when many lines were missed. This could have been bad timing on actors’ parts and not a sound issue at all. As for lighting, the space was well lit, and the stage, while minimally set, was helpful in making me feel like I was with the cast rehearsing for their show.
This comical musical is sure to make a nice evening’s activity, and with such talented director, choreographer, and actors, there is something for everyone to love. Some of the lines were “catchier than pink eye,” and you may just have to go back for more. And to the question posed in scene two about the man who reviewed their show within the show, “What kind of man would want a job like that?” My answer is I would. And I’m a woman.