BWW Review: Theater Three's production of Kander and Ebb's CURTAINS certainly is “A Tough Act to Follow”
Port Jefferson's Theater Three production of the musicial murder mystery romp Curtains is brilliant; it is a clever mash up of Columbo meets Kiss Me, Kate. Curtains is a wonderful show that reveals how a show's ensemble is not just its cast, but also its creative team. It emphasizes the importance of each and every talent involved with putting on a Broadway show. From the stage manager to the conductor; from the music team to the director. Theater Three's production successfully emits this theme.
The show itself features an entertaining murder plot from the creative minds of Oscar, Tony and Emmy Award winning writer Peter Stone (Charade; The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3; 1776; Titanic) and Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood); Holmes became involved with the production after Stone's untimely death in 2003. Curtains also features some of the last collaborative compositions by the legendary songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb due to Ebb's passing in 2004. The mourning of Kander's songwriting partner is clearly present in "I Miss the Music", one of the show's ballads.
Curtains takes place at the Colonial Theater in Boston, 1959, where new musical "Robbin' Hood of the Old West" is completing an out of town tryout. On opening night of the tryout, the show's leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw, is murdered during curtain call. It's now up to police officer and musical theatre fan, Lt. Frank Cioffi, to solve the backstage murder and try to help the theatre people work out the show's complications.
What truly is wonderful about Curtains is that every actor within the production is given a moment to shine; I myself was fantastically blinded by the wonderful acting ensemble at Theater Three. Among the bright stars are: Steve McCoy as the theatre loving Lt. Frank Cioffi, who truly captures the role's joviality and brings heart to the show ; Long Island theater great Mary Ellin Kurtz as show producer Carmen Bernstein, who is wonderfully hilarious and brassy emitting tones of Ethel Merman; and Matt Senese is wonderfully camp as the show's director Christopher Belling. Jeffrey Sanzel does a fine job directing this ode to the theater. Whitney Stone, currently represented off-Broadway with Molasses in January, brilliantly showcases her choreography here, especially with the brilliant dance routine performed by Nicole Bianco and Dylan Robert Poulos in "Kansasland". Stone's choreography for the Act II show-stopper "A Tough Act to Follow" is absolutely beautiful and a crowd-pleaser as well; I was instantly reminded of the great dance routines of Fred and Ginger. Jeffrey Hoffman not only leads the stellar 8-piece pit orchestra for the show, but also inhibits the role of the Sasha Iljinsky, the show within a show's conductor; he leads the Act II opener with hilarity. This was a brilliant move on book writer Holmes's part as it truly emphasizes the importance of the musical conductor in a stage production. A round of applause must also be given to scenic designer Randall Parsons; Parsons beautifully makes use of the 160 year old Athena Hall as Boston's Colonial Theatre.
Theatre Three is wrapping up it's 48th season with this fantastic production. Curtains will be running through June 23. Theater Three definitely has a challenge to face with mounting their next production of The Addams Family in September as their production of Curtains truly is "A Tough Act to Follow".