CURTAINS at Foothill Music Theatre a merry romp.

(Lower right) The cast in the show-within-a-show in CURTAINS
at Foothill Music Theatre
(Lower left) Lyricist Georgia Hendricks (Alicia Teeter) stars in the Kansas number.. (Upper Right) Ingenue Niki Harris (Katie Blodgett) and Lt. Frank Cioffi (Ryan Drummond)

CURTAINS: A Musical Whodunit. Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb and book by Rupert Holmes. Directed by Jay Manley. Foothill Music Theatre at the Lohman Theatre in Los Altos, CA. 650-949-7360 or July 21 – August 14, 2011

CURTAINS at Foothill Music Theatre a merry romp.

John Kander and the late Fred Ebb have thrilled theatre audiences since 1965 with their first Broadway musical Flora the Red Menace. Since then they went on to write, amongst many others, Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman. This time they have been adide and blessed by a book by Rupert Holmes. By taking a trip to Foothill College who can be thrilled by Jay Manley’s crisp production of their last award winning project Curtains with Ryan Drummond in the lead role that won a Tony Award for David Hyde Pierce in 2008.

Ryan Drummond, who recently was a smash hit as Georg Novack in Center Rep’s She Loves Me and Leo Bloom in Diablo Theatre Company’s The Producers plays the not so hapless police inspector who is an ardent theatre aficionado assigned to solve the murder that took place during the curtain call of the 1959 Boston tryout of a new musical Robbin’ Hood. It just happens the victim is the incompetent ghastly star detested by the entire cast of 30 who all are suspects. The only non-suspects are fine six member off-stage orchestra. Yes he solves that murder and two others that take place before the final curtain. The audience, in the final, final curtain call is warned, “For anyone telling the ending, it will be ‘curtains’.

The entire evening is a put-down, or is it send-up, of every musical comedy and mystery play to hit the boards. The time is 1959 when Boston was “the” tryout city for Broadway bound plays and rewrites were the de rigueur. Well with a dead leading lady (Reggie Reynolds), would the understudy Niki (Katie Blodgett) be the “leading suspect” thus moving into the lead role? Or could it be Bambi (Jordan Michele Kersten) the understudy’s understudy who would become the real understudy when Niki the understudy moved into the star role? Not so fast, the fey egotistical director (Walter M. Mayes) has other plans, putting the lyricist (Alicia Teeter) in the lead, separating her from her composer partner (Michael Rhone) thus breaking up a potential romance. (Think Marvin Hammlish in They’re Playing Our Song). The corny rewrites begin, are rehearsed, dumped and re-rehearsed in hysterical fashion with energy to spare.

Drummond who is fantastic in the role of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, with perfect comic timing, mobile body and plastic facial expressions must share the accolades with a terrific cast. First, all the cast members are excellent singers (with a few missed notes that fit in with the satire). In alphabetical order, Beautiful Kate Blodgett as the ingénue Niki is melliferously sweet as required by the part. Jordan Michelle Kirsten’s transformation from bimbo Bambi to sexy acrobatic dancer is eye-popping. Red-headed Walter M. Mayes stands tall above every member of the cast, gets off the best zingers in the show adding greatly to the humorous raunchy lines . . . of which there are many (I would direct the Kama Sutra with a Richard Rogers score!). Tyler Risk, after a long hiatus, returns to stage in a memorable dominating role as the producer Carmen Bernstein. (“Theater is a business and The Show Must Go On . . . horses—t replies the cast!) Alicia Teeter’s fine singing voice and stage presence adds a touch of class to the shenanigans.

Director Jay Manley and choreographer Dottie Lester-White are blessed with a tireless ensemble that fill the entire stage in the intimate Lohman Theatre garnering appreciative applause in the song and dance numbers requiring multiple costume changes (Janis Bergman). Highly recommended with running time about 2 hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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