Putting on a musical is the most fulfilling thing a person can do, and the people of Silhouette Stages provide a thoroughly fulfilling experience for theatergoers in Howard County with their production of Curtains. Directed by Conni Ross and Debbie Mobley with Musical Direction by Michael Tan, it is the finest production the company has put on to date. With outstanding performances across the board, this musical is the perfect production with which to close the 2013/2014 season. With a stellar cast and sensational musical numbers, this is a very entertaining and zany and comical musical production.
Scenic Designer Ryan Geiger brings everything a brilliant Broadway musical needs to succeed to this production. Elaborate-looking sets that are still functional and dosed liberally with campy cartoony taccoutrements make for a wildly entertaining show. Co-Director Debbie Mobley, teaming up with Costume Designer Laura Nicholson, adds a layer of hokey intensity to the wickedly hilarious musical with their combined efforts in the wardrobe department. Georgia’s green corseted affair for “Thataway” is an eye-popping hoot, along with all the other wild western costumes featured in that number.
The dance numbers that pop up throughout this production are stellar. Choreographer Katie Sheldon fills each big number with an opportunity of dancing delight. Even the cutesy shimmy-shake line for “Show People” has the audience cheering on the plethora of dance moves that turn up in this performance. From the line dancing bits during “Thataway” to the intricately organized ‘mermaids’ movements in ‘In The Same Boat (Complete)’ Sheldon is covering remarkable ground in her exposure of dance techniques, especially once we get to “Kansasland.” The bigger ensemble numbers are clean, tightly executed, and make for true professional quality consistently throughout the show. Sheldon even invents exciting routines for duet dancing during “A Tough Act to Follow,” a one-woman wonder in the dance department of this production.
It’s Musical Director Michael Tan, who also serves as “Sasha” the Russian pit conductor of the theatre within the play, that crafts a wholly perfect sound during this production. His solo as Sasha at the top of Act II, “The Man is Dead” is a robust expression of his rich lower range, complete with heavily over-articulated Russian accent. Large ensemble numbers like “The Woman’s Dead” are filled with minor keys and complex harmonies that Tan ensures are delivered with excellence. Coaxing a full and satisfying sound from other ensemble numbers such as “In The Same Boat” (just about all renditions) and “Thataway” Tan succeeds in making this cast sound sensational.
Directors Debbie Mobley and Conni Ross bring a tremendous amount of talent to the stage in this show, and showcase a vast knowledge of how to block each scene to perfection while maximizing the show’s comic potential. Mobley and Ross play the show to exaggerated extremes, the only true way that this show can be done and still be wildly successful. Their blocking and execution of “He Did It” with the flashlights and various curtain sections is one of the funniest numbers in the show. Mobley and Ross are visionaries when it comes to this particular show, tackling this intense musical beast with gusto.
No part is too small in this performance, with bit players rising to their moments of fame in sheer hilarity. Company diva Jessica Cranshaw (Suzanne Young) may have an incredibly brief limelight but she makes the most of it. Young plays up the character’s confusion as well as her ineptitude making for screams of laughter from the audience during the first scene. Other ensemble performances worth noting include Jose Reyes and Vince Vuono, the two male dancers whose silent arguments and affectations steal the audience’s attention when they’re in the background, particularly during the second act. Watch them closely during and after “Kansasland.”
What show could function without their stage manager, Johnny (Amy E. Haynes), and this show is of course no exception. Haynes plays the part as if she’s actually been a stage manager before, knowing all the little ins and outs, and exactly how to handle larger than life personalities. Haynes even gets a chance to display her incredibly powerful belting voice at the end of “The Woman’s Dead.” Giving an equally memorable performance is the tacky blonde Bambi (Angela Stein.) Perpetually attempting to steal the limelight and turn it on her character, Stein gives the perfect balance of ambitious annoyance to the character, making the audience love her while suspecting her at the same time. Stein gets a chance to show off some sassy dance moves to match her attitude during “Kansasland” and her interactions with Bobby (Andrew Worthington) make for quite the show.
Every show needs a Producer and the show within the show has Oscar (John Sheldon.) Working his cranky curmudgeonly angle, Sheldon makes a convincing, albeit humorous, portrayal of the backer of the show. But it’s the Director whose presence everybody can feel coming from a mile away, in this case Christopher (Rick Robertson.) Between his flamboyant affectations and wicked comic timing, Robertson steals the scene every time he appears in it. His witty one-liners are more than just zingers as they zap and jolt various and sundry all throughout the cast. With a flair for the overly dramatic, Roberts is straight-up scream when it comes to shooting off his sarcastic stingers, everything about him from his saucy mouth to his poised physicality radiates scene-stealer in the best light possible.
Doe-eyed showgirl Niki (Lisa Pastella) has got it bad for the Lieutenant once he arrives on the scene. Pastella’s ability to readily dissolve herself into the bubbly brainless lovestruck stupor that accompanies the character is impressive. Just having the one solo, that’s really a duet with Cioffi, Pastella makes her voice heard for “A Tough Act to Follow” and generally has all eyes on her when she comes crashing into a scene with an exciting new discovery.
Georgia (Michele Guyton) and Aaron (Jim Gross) go hand in hand like music and lyrics. Or at least they used to. While Guyton and Gross spend most of the musical apart their interactions are that of old flames trying not to explode in each other’s faces. Guyton gives an exceptional performance as Georgia, lending her talented voice to “Thataway” and really shuffling her sensual self all around the stage during that number. Gross stuns the audience with his gorgeous rendition of “I Miss the Music.” Utilizing his upper tenor range for this number, the raw emotions that come channeling through are intense and it becomes the most beautiful number in the show. Gross and Guyton’s duet “Thinking of Him/I Miss the Music (Reprise)” is filled with resplendent sound and deeply moving emotions; the second most beautiful number in the show.
Both Guyton and Gross, along with Sheldon, team up with Carmen (Andrea Bush) for “What Kind of Man” the best quartet number of the production. Bush has an undeniably fierce stage presence that resonates through her being from the moment the audience sets eyes upon her. Serving up true grit with a pistol for a mouth, Bush dominates the stage in every one of her scenes. Leading off the number “Show People,” Bush showcases a bit of technique found in the last of the old school beltresses, projecting her voice like the old school greats who came long before her. Her quick quips rival Rick Robertson’s delivery and her sassy no-crap attitude is stunning. Her finest moment comes during “It’s a Business” the big show-stopping number where Bush throws looks, determination and attitude all in one big Broadway blast of power and pizzazz; hands down e best female performer in the show.
As for Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Ryan Geiger) the murders may mostly be a mystery but his love for the theatre is plain for everyone to see. This role is Geiger’s finest work to date; an exceptional portrayal where comedy flourishes in his ability to play the role straight and seriously. Keeping a level head about his character, Geiger unearths the natural humor built into the dialogue and the situations. His voice is spectacular, especially during “Show People” and “A Tough Act to Follow.” Giving the performance of a lifetime, Geiger sets the bar high in this role, and the rest of the characters follow suit.
A tremendously rewarding production , Curtains is the show to go and see before the final curtain falls at Silhouette Stages.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
Curtains plays through May 25, 2014 at Silhouette Stages at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.