By Grace Cleland, Flint Hill School junior
The preparations have been made. The actors are ready. The rehearsals for the up and coming Broadway musical, Robin Hood, are almost finished. Crazy characters roam the set, eager to make their theatrical debut. It’s the perfect scene…for a murder?!
On Dec. 15 and 16, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville presented Curtains, The Musical Comedy Whodunit. Featuring catchy songs, a fast-paced script, and outlandish caricatures, the musical was a hit…er, not the deadly kind.
Curtains followed the company of a spinoff of Robin Hood, the brainchild of an aspiring producer’s dream to make it to Broadway. When the lead singer of the show was mysteriously murdered, tensions rose high among the rest of the cast. Forced to remain on the set, the normally witty, upbeat cast members of Robin Hood found themselves turning on one another, unable to trust anyone, and looking only to song to express their humorous emotions. Of course, add a few love triangles, continuing rehearsals amidst caution tape and interrogations, and a few more murders, and the cast turns mad!
Due to its comical nature, Curtains was by no means a traditional murder mystery. The roars of laughter from the audience were mostly on the behalf of the hilarious, over-the-top characters. Featuring eager chorus girls, a flamboyant director, and a sleazy leading lady, the script of the musical practically wrote itself!
Commented director Lyle Solomon, “The list of suspects in the Curtains murder mystery is easily a cattle call of cartoonish personalities.”
Because of its high demand for both lead actors and ensemble members, Curtains made the ideal selection for members of the Jewish Day School.
Solomon said, “[Curtains] is the perfect show for a high school musical. It has tons of parts. The ensemble…has more to do than any other musical I have encountered.”
Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the show was the music. Though catchy and upbeat, some of the actors did not provide the energy necessary to deliver a successful musical performance. Despite a few of these exceptions, the rest of the cast masterfully interpreted and performed countless musical numbers, the intermittent nature of which never allowed for a dull moment on stage.
Lead singer and actress Penina Graubart, who played murder suspect Nikki Harris, said of the musical aspect, “I never thought I could sing in public, but the music was so fun and catchy that I just forgot about my insecurity about my lack of experience and gave it my best shot.”
The artistic aspect of the musical was also something to be noted. Though they attend a small school with a limited budget for the theater department, the students of JDS were able to put together a colorful, two-story set and captivatingly vibrant costumes. Since the show featured everything from lively rehearsals to attempted funeral processions, costume changes were both eminent and frequent.
Said Solomon, “I have never done a show with so many costume changes.”
In part because of its large cast and extravagant costumes, Curtains was, at times, hard to follow. While its fast-paced script allowed for humorous dialogue, a number of of the funnier lines were lost in the shuffle of blocking, acting, singing, and theatricality. Even so, many (if not all) of the lead actors were able to maintain their composure and present a successful performance despite all of the distractions of the production.
As evidenced by the success of lead actors such as Cole Aronson and Annie Schtevie, who played Lieutenant Frank Cioffi and Georgia Hendricks, respectively, the show was cast masterfully. Each and every role was filled by not only an able actor and singer, but also an enthusiastic one. The high energy of the show allowed the audience to fully appreciate some of the funnier moments.
JDS senior and audience member Michael Paretzky said, “Dr. Solomon couldn’t have done a better job. These kids are the best of the best when it comes to theater.”
During the ten-minute intermission, members of the cast remained in character, interrogating audience members in order to “solve the murder.” The cast had also set up a whiteboard in the theater’s lobby, allowing attendees to place a checkmark by their presumed suspect. Since the musical featured a surprise ending, the guesses of most audience members were incorrect!
Curtains was the final hoorah for many JDS seniors who had been in the drama program for the totality of their high school careers. Perhaps this gave them an even larger motivation to impress the audience and go out with a “bang” – clearly the harmless kind, of course.
Senior Ben Steren said, “I’m sad to leave the theater program, but I’m glad I could give my final performance as a part of such a great show.”
In its entirety, Curtains was a difficult show to perform. Its large cast, artistic demands, and necessary musical and theatrical talent make it a difficult performance to present. Yet the director and the actors were able to put on a production worthy of a the standing ovation it received.
The characters may have been dropping dead by the minute, but it’s certainly not curtains for this musical hit!