Disclaimer: Don’t discredit me, considering my only musical experience is the Indian Hills Middle School production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” as a tone-def part of the ensemble.
With that said, in my not-so-professional opinion, I thought East’s opening night performance of “Curtains” on Thursday was one of the best East musicals I’ve ever seen — and I’ve been seeing the East musicals since I was at Prairie Elementary taking field trips to East.
I had never heard of “Curtains” before, so I got to experience it for the first time, which, like any good movie, is the best time.
I immediately took to the characters played by fellow Lancers much more talented than I, such as junior Sophia Eagan as Nicki Harris and senior Billy Fox as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, whose duet “A Tough Act to Follow” put me in the Valentine’s Day mood. The musical married my two favorite genres, mystery and comedy, so that I could actively try to solve the murders in my head, all while laughing at murder puns made by the characters.
As I read “A New American Musical Robbin’ Hood of the Old West” on the title curtain at the beginning of the musical, I was starting to wonder if I was
in the right auditorium. But as I stifled laughter at junior Ella Stotts as Jessica Cranshaw, the talent-lacking leading lady of “Robbin’ Hood” during the first song “Wide Open Spaces,” my head was spinning — why she was purposefully messing up, and why the musical had a different name than the one on my playbill?
However, once the second song “What Kind of Man,” a comedic number about the wickedness of the critics who gave them a bad review, everything started to come together in my head.
It was a musical within a musical. All of the characters in “Curtains” were either actors, directors, stage managers, writers or otherwise related to the musical, besidesthe lieutenant and detective.
Throughout the hour-and-a-half musical, I mourned the death of three characters: Stotts’ Jessica Cranshaw, Sid Bernstein played by senior Adam Cameron and Jenny Harmon played by senior Harper Mundy.
Following Cranshaw being poisoned during the opening night performance of “Robbin’ Hood,” Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, played by senior Billy Fox, orders all of the characters to remain in the at the theatre until he solves the case. The audience then gets a behind-the-scenes look, as the characters try to mend the failed musical without their leading lady — all the while knowing that there is a killer in their midst.
Considering I’m a bigger fan of Bill Murray than William Shakespeare, I particularly enjoyed the comedic aspect of “Curtains.” I found myself laughing out loud as junior Luke Knopke playing the director Christopher Belling said, “Well, shall we observe a minute of silence, to match the audience’s response to Jessica’s first number?”
Knopke, though he wasn’t the main character in the production, was my favorite to watch. His role as the conceited and flamboyant musical director made the murder mystery seem more like “The Nice Guys” than “Murder on the Orient Express,” and managed to maintain the comedic aspect of the musical — even when someone was murdered.
Like any good mystery, I was kept wondering who the murderer was until the final reveal. After several “I know it’s,” I was shocked at the end to find out it was not one murderer, but two.
Daryl Grady, the pessimistic critic I loved to hate played by junior Davis Vaughn, confessed to killing Cranshaw and Harmon, as well as the love he had for Harris, which motivated the murders. Grady was able to slip in and out of the building without suspicion because he was part of the press, making him also slip through my detective skills, which I otherwise pride myself on — thanks, “Criminal Minds.”
The second reveal, however, I was expecting even less, and confirmed that I should never go into a career in detective work. Senior Grace Chisholm’s Carmen Bernstein blurted out, “And I killed him,” regarding her cheating husband, Sid Bernstein, in the last minutes of the show.
Sid was threatening to cancel the musical and Carmen killed him so that her daughter, Bambi, could still have the opportunity of a part in “Robbin’ Hood.” I didn’t know that I could sympathize with a murderer, but I found it touching that Bernstein, who earlier claimed that the musical was just business to her, cared that much about her daughter and the show.
As it turns out, I’m a much more complimentary, and much less murderous, critic than Grady was. The mystery plot with a comedic twist held my full attention the entire time, not even thinking of checking my Snapchats