As the Jewish Community Center of Louisville Artistic Director John Leffert introduced the new production of the musical Curtains, he ended by admitting the cast only had three and a half weeks to learn the lines, blocking, songs, and choreography. And as the curtain rose on the first number, many flaws stood out. It sounded wrong, the choreography was flawed, and many cues seemed missed. However, extremely quickly, everything righted and the show went on to prove a wonderfully lovely time.
Curtains, written by the creators of Cabaret and Chicago, tells the story of a murder mystery within a flop of a musical. After a failed opening the cast of the musical within a musical lament over the horrible performance of the big name star. Their prayers are answered when an unnamed party in the theater murders her. A detective quickly arrives, quarantines the theater, and begins to unravel the mystery as the cast and crew figure out how to improve their awful production.
Not only did everything fall into place for the players in this community theater, but also most everything shined brightly. The talented cast and wonderful orchestra created an experience that matured beyond its local flavor. I have seen much worse performances from much larger productions. In this feel-good murder mystery of wild takes and goofy looks, the whole talent inspired the type of whimsical charm that reminded me why I loved musicals as a child.
Pete Lay as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi emerged the star from this large cast. His hilarious Cliff Clavin Boston accent and energetic physical presence sold the show. Just as well, Jeremy Moon as Aaron Fox, and Lauren Maxwell as Georgia Hendricks lent their experienced voices to beautiful songs.
Some slight signs of the rushed production did show through occasionally missed choreography and a few wardrobe malfunctions, but they did pull through without missing a beat. In the end, this satirical yet fond portrayal of the passionate players in musical theater was given a delightful treatment by an enthusiastic, well-led cast. I really enjoyed myself and it highlighted just how much talent is hidden within this city.
Image: Courtesy Jewish Community Center