5/9/2013 - Curtains choreographer Bobby Fonacier calls the Actorsingers’ upcoming production a “musical on steroids.”
“You have everything thrown in but the kitchen sink,” Fonacier said at a rehearsal last week.
Co-director Larry Pizza agrees. He said Curtains, which premiered on Broadway in 2007, boasts snappy dialogue, excitement, mystery and a catchy cast of characters. There’s some good romance, too.
Curtains is about a murder within a fictional 1950s Boston musical called Robbin’ Hood.
“It’s a good play for people who enjoy Broadway. There’s lots of fast dialogue, humorous bits, and there’s a lot humor that plays off Broadway history,” said Chuck Emmons, the show’s producer.
The characters are stereotyped “theater” people, with show moms and eccentric directors, eager understudies and stage divas.
The show begins, as most murder mysteries do, with a murder. The victim dies just as she receives her bouquets of flowers. (The cast isn’t overly upset by the loss; they do hold a mock funeral for her and sing, “The Woman’s Dead,” but many are more interested in who’s taking her role.) It soon becomes apparent, thanks to Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, that this victim was murdered by someone within the company, and the cast and crew are forced to stay inside the theater while Cioffi distractedly tries to solve the mystery. He’s starstruck by the whole cast — he is a huge theater fan — but mostly by actress Niki Harris.
Though it’s a fairly new play — the Nashua Actorsingers’ rendition will be New Hampshire’s community theater premiere of the show — Pizza says that theatergoers will recognize some old-fashioned Broadway flair. You’ll see elements from old shows like Hello Dolly and Guys and Dolls, but Curtains is more current, fresher and bolder, he said. (It also, actor Bob Frasca pointed out, features more of an “urban vocabulary.” But he says that makes it a bit funnier, too.)
The biggest difference, as both Fonacier and Pizza noted, is the pacing.
“You’re trying to keep the thrill of the murder mystery, to keep audiences interested in the story, but then, all of a sudden, there’s romance. It’s a very delicate balance. You have to find that happy medium, where all of these elements are very supportive of one another,” Pizza said. “It has to continuously move, continuously be driven by the actors, and it’s a really exhausting challenge for them because they really need to keep the energy up.”
Between these ups and downs, murders, romance and dancing scenes, actors will be going through nearly twice as many costume changes as normal since it’s a play within a play. Costume designer Lindsay Vago has been constructing traditional 1950s garb with wide skirts and accentuated waistlines for Curtains and blue Western gowns with white trim and hoop skirts for Robbin’ Hood.
Glen Grimard, who plays eccentric Robbin’ Hood director Christopher Belling, says that paying attention to this fast pacing makes a difference in the play’s energy. He played the British-accented role in a smaller production of Curtains in Reading, Mass., but this time around, because of co-directors Pizza and Kim Cassetta’s direction, he’s playing it differently.
“With so much going on in the show, it can be easy to become disconnected. But when you keep the lines going quickly, the energy is sustained,” Grimard said.
Even two weeks before showtime, he said, the play feels better because of the speed.
There’s no room for a dull moment, as the Actorsingers demonstrated during a rehearsal last week; every move is carefully choreographed and every line is carefully toned and timed.
It’ll be new, too. Pizza is very adamant that they provide a fresh, new look at Curtains for New Hampshire audiences. He swore off all exposure to the Broadway production, including YouTube clips.
“I want to make sure it’s really the New Hampshire premiere, and not a copy of Broadway,” Pizza said.
“It has the romance of not only love, but also the romance of chasing your dreams. It’s a wonderfully layered play.”