Curtains Rises at Camarillo Playhouse
by Shirley Lorraine
Curtains, now onstage at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse through November 20, is a send-up of backstage murder mystery musicals set in 1959 Boston. Music and lyrics are by John Kander and Fred Ebb of Cabaret and Chicago fame.
In Curtains the ultimate bad omen occurs on opening night of a Broadway-bound musical– the murder of the much disliked, talentless leading lady. Enter detective Frank Cioffi (William Carmichael), a part-time thespian himself, who quarantines the cast and questions the players, all of whom may have had ample motive to do the deed. Producer Carmen Bernstein (Aileen-Marie Scott) tries to keep the show on track despite numerous setbacks, including another murder or two.
Subplots include the detective being smitten by a member of the ensemble, an unscrupulous Boston Globe reporter, and a sparring songwriting team.
The performance of the miscast and doomed Robbin’ Hood is directed by a flamboyant Christopher Belling, played to the hilt by Bill Sweeney. Apparently given free reign by Curtains director Rick Steinberg, Sweeney camps it up thoroughly throughout.
In excellent comedy fashion, the play within the play is clearly not Broadway material. However, some of the individual characters do shine in the surrounding play. Olivia Heulitt as the lead’s understudy Niki gives a particularly fine performance, both in acting and singing. She is well matched with Carmichael, who has a smooth, easy-going sound. Another standout is Dawn Notagiacomo as Bambi, the stereotypical chorine whose bimbo persona masks some true talent. Kyle Johnson gives a solid performance as Bobby Pepper, the lead player. Aileen-Marie Scott is a vocal force to be sure, although at times her brassiness overwhelms the lyrics.
The tempo of the show on opening weekend was uneven and a few technical glitches were still being refined. Several of the songs had weak, lackluster endings. Although a big Kander and Ebb fan, I would place this show on their B-list of memorable musical offerings. Many of the songs contain familiar phrasing reminiscent of numerous other Kander and Ebb shows. The score is pleasant yet unmemorable.
Curtains is a lightweight musical overall. Action moves back and forth between the show being put on by the players and the show the audience is watching. In that premise lies inherent inconsistency with both musical styles and cast performances which, in my opinion, kept the script from being fully realized.
Choreography by Miriam Durrie-Kirsch is ambitious and high energy although executed well by most of the large cast. There are many “insider” references that anyone who has been on a stage will appreciate. It is gratifying to experience a musical production that is less well known and to see a theater company expand its horizons beyond the standards.
Curtains runs Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. through Nov. 20.
Camarillo Skyway Playhouse
330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo
388-5716 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Adults $20, Students, seniors and military, $15, Under 12, $10