by Kevin T McEneaney
When this curtain opens at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck, you are in for a remarkable treat! When is the last tine you had a deep, good laugh? How about three or four dozen? They say laughers live the longest and here is your chance to raise your laugh resumé.
Just before Director Kevin Archambault died earlier this year, he suggested that the Center perform the musical Curtains (2006) by Kander (music), Ebb (lyrics), and Holmes (book). John Kander had previous musical hits with Cabaret and Chicago. The play is set at the Boston Colonial Theater in 1959. Producer Diana di Grandi has fully fleshed out Kevin’s futuristic vision with the omnivorous skills of Director and Choreographer Thomas Netter.
Curtains offers a meta-theater play (a play about actors, script, backstage intrigue) with a silvery dose of satire on the play Oklahoma as well as the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, superbly realized by Peter Kiewra, in this deliciously witty, high-jinks parody on the whodunit genre. As a play within a mousetrap play, the actors are extravagantly giddy with self-confidence, reveling in exuberant radiance. They had no doubt that they were all in a smash hit.
Leading lady Rachel Karashay as Nikki, a theatrical ingénue, convincingly depicts a young starlet in love with someone not in the cast. Emily Woolever (playing two roles) delivers an unforgettable performance as show-stopper Georgina! Kandy Harris, as the show’s brassy producer, supplies an impressive river of song flowing from her voice; when not singing she enacts the role of drill sergeant with crushing authority.
Terrance Boyer, as frustrated yet talented piano composer Aaron Fox, wrestles with his beloved instrument as he remains still in love with ex-wife Georgina; he projects a romantic heart that any woman would find appealing. Michael Britt as Christopher Belling, the play’s English Director, has a suave penchant for stealing scenes with a mere word or two. Amber McCarthy as Bambi, daughter of the play’s producer, convinces as one who possesses more theatrical talent than a first glance might indicate. Ory Lopez as Bobby Pepper, star hoofer with the gleaming, patented, showbiz smile, manages to make one wish that his role in the play was larger.
As for Douglas Woolever, the theater critic who pans and damns the play, his performance is assertively good, yet I can’t help but think that someone like me who is a real theater critic free of bombast might be able to rewrite a line here and there to improve and expand the angle of the role with intrepid eloquence; such jealousy remains frowned upon in this trendy business where someone who is typecast wins over someone in the shadows who is cast in type before your very eyes, like yours truly.
A family Woolever subplot threatens to dominate the production. Music Director Mathew Woolever ably directs Laurie Woolever (his mother) on jaunty piano, as well as the rhythmic trumpets of Myra Lutomski and John Barath, with Steve Kessler on trombone, and Chris Losee on drums. The play has such a large cast of amusing and mugging dancers with seductive teeth that my employer (my own self) limits the quota of words permitted for praise. Bill Ross committed formidable set design; Anita Otey outdid herself with expressive costumes; Mia DeYoung and Cedric James pushed dancers to their limit.
There are moments of such comic hilarity that I cannot recall when I laughed so hard. Word is out! The theatre was packed last Friday night. If you possess the slightest inclination to laugh your head off, you had better make reservations pronto at https://www.centerforperformingarts.org/
This marquee production runs through August 14. Some performances may feature alternate actors.