Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Also see Richard's review of Where's Charley?
Hillbarn Theatre closes its 74th season with the Kander and Ebb musical detective story Curtains. It isn't as well known as the writing team's Cabaret or Chicago but it is a lively musical of showbiz pizzazz. Curtains is billed as "The Musical Comedy Whodunit." What is lacking in Rupert Holmes' book is made up in spades by musical numbers. This marks the third time I have seen this interesting musical.
Curtains is set in 1959 as an homage to the Golden Age of musicals. The plot involves the murder of the leading star of a musical called Robbin' Hood (about a western Robin Hood) during the show's pre-Broadway run in Boston. Detective Lt. Frank Cioffi, a musical theatre nut, is called in to solve the murder. Throughout the show, musicals numbers are thrown in willy nilly, including a big production number that opens the show with a musical that looks strangely like Oklahoma!, featuring the murder victim who can't sing, dance, or remember lines. It's a crazy, hilarious opening to the musical.
John Kander's music sounds a little like his scores from Chicago and Cabaret, but there are bouncy numbers like "Show People," "It's a Business," and the romantic song "I Miss the Music."
Ross Neuenfeldt gives a splendid performance as the stage-struck detective, and he has serviceable singing skills in "Coffee Shop Nights" and "Show People" and great dance moves in the second act "A Tough Act to Follow." Sasha Motalygo is terrific as the brassy producer Carmen Bernstein, especially when she belts with her Ethel Merman type voice "Show People" and "It's a Business." Christopher M. Nelson as the composer, Aaron Fox, has a vibrant voice singing the lament, "I Miss the Music." Katherine Stein gives a fetching performance as his ex-wife Georgia. She has good singing chops in "Thinking of Him" and "Thataway!. Charlie Fields gives an eye-catching performance as young Bobby Pepper. He is versatile in his dancing in number "A Tough Act to Follow." Raymond Mendonca camps it up as manic director Christopher Belling. The large cast plays their roles with charming gusto.
Choreography by Jayne Zaban is sparkling while costumes by Valerie Emmi for the Robbin' Hood numbers are colorful, and Andrew J. Diggins' sets are blended in the musical numbers. Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler's direction is fast paced and lively, especially in the big production numbers. The orchestra is canned music.
Curtains plays through May 31st, 2015, at the Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Single tickets range in price from $23 - $42 and are available now by calling 650.349.6411 ext. 2 or visiting www.hillbarntheatre.org.