Sometimes a show can be so fun, that even some atypically bad luck or questionable choices don’t irrevocably harm the overall production. Curtains is a big show, with big songs, big dance numbers, big set pieces and big demands on the entire ensemble. I think what I’m trying to say is…it’s really big. That size proved visibly challenging for Hillbarn Theater’s opening night performance with numerous technical snafus, but in the end, I think the good came out on top.
The real surprise and delight of this production for me is the wit in the script. Lyrics fly by with hardly time to laugh, but there are a lot of jokes packed into this substantially “lengthed” play. While not gut busting, a steady stream of smiles and chuckles were produced from the loads of charm and cleverness woven into the comic plot. It is nothing so unpredictable or unique, but it’s well-structured and held my attention admirably. Those in the theater world with a penchant for self-deprecating and satirical wit will glean an extra layer of humor from the numerous inside industry jokes.
I wasn’t sold on all the casting to be totally honest, but there were some definite members that shined. The chemistry between the detective assigned to the who-done-it, Lt. Frank Cioffi and understudy to the star Niki Harris is hilarious and I could have watched just them for hours. They have some of the best dialogue and some of the best facial expressions and timing. They are truly adorable and funny.
Our actress playing the acerbic producer Carmen Bernstein is the consummate broad, delivering every line of biting sarcasm flawlessly; each zinger, zinging and each belted note landing just where you want it to. She’s good. Bambi pulls out the stops in her big scene (she undeniably rises to the occasion of challenging choreography) and Mona proves a solid leading lady in many of her songs and scenes. The egomaniac Director Christopher Beling has a fine and endlessly amusing grasp on his narcissism and must also be commended for his comic timing and flair. I think we all know “that guy.”
From sound and lighting to set and even some choreography missteps, there were unfortunately a lot of distractions from the good work being done on stage. There were some fantastic costumes, but like with many of the other technical elements, the inconsistency across the whole production wasn’t flattering. Though a totally understandable choice given the other demands of this production, I wasn’t personally thrilled to be taking a “step back” with canned music after having been spoiled by live music at recent Hillbarn productions.
It doesn’t take a super sleuth to see that this fun, silly, truly witty, over-the-top show is an enjoyable night out and the cast works hard to make it as such. All the clues point to this cleverly written show (with some standout talent in the cast) overcoming the majority of its technical glitches and eventually gelling quite nicely. 3 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a show that didn’t exactly kill it, but certainly didn’t murder the script by any means either. Curtains plays through May 31st at the Hillbarn Theater in Foster City.