From Kander and Ebb the team who gave us Chicago and Cabaret, Curtains is definitely ones of their lesser known musicals, however it is a megawatt show and offers a cheeky insight into the world of theatre making, which is perfect for a community group.
Taking a huge show like this (the score is massive and the full ensemble numbers seem deliciously never ending) to stage successfully requires a hugely talented ensemble all lifting together to get the job done. Beenleigh Theatre Group put together a killer cast, and every one of them oozes charisma and talent like there is no tomorrow.
With an all star cast, a great script and score, and one of the most beautiful set designs I’ve seen in a long time, this show should have been a 10 out of 10. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite get there on opening night.
A huge let down on the opening night performance was the direction of the show by Andrew Cockroft-Penman. It lacked style, missed obvious jokes in the script, and over used the genius set design. Despite the talented cast, actors were often left standing in awkward positions around the stage, the blocking through the scenes was a big problem and sight lines were not nearly as clear and crisp as this ensemble deserved.
The pacing of the show felt stilted and uneven and there were key beats in the story that remained unexplored. However the tremendous cast and crew worked tirelessly to lift the production and keep driving it forward.
The work between Julie Whiting’s musical director and Jackson Kook’s choreography is much more together and well thought out. Both had a strong sense of the show, and did their best to keep things moving. There were some moments that were not as neat and together as they could be, but overall the work between Whiting, Kook, and the ensemble was succinct and high energy. Offering up stunning full ensemble dance numbers, and some really amazing solo, and group singing.
Curtains overall, is a beautiful show to to look at. The stunning and deceptively simple set design by Andrew Alley and Cockroft-Penman is a treat, and sets the tone from the instant the audience walks in. The revolve is genius, and works flawlessly, even if it at times it is a little loud. Chloe Dunn as stage manager works tirelessly throughout the show, leading her team to keep the world inside the theatre literally spinning on a dime. Additionally, the costume team have done a fantastic job, the ensemble looks stunning and the picture is quite impressive from the audience.
This production of Curtains featured a relatively small ensemble cast, working together to impressively create the world of the show within the show. The small numbers want that there needed to be a strong cohesion in the ensemble and this cast brought that feeling of unity in spades.
A show of this nature with a cast of this outstanding calibre makes it hard to separate the stellar performances but some of the absolute standouts include Tony Campbell as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, Campbell offering a charmingly sweet performance, playing the style of the show up particularly well. Of special note was his work with Lauren-Lee Innis-Youren’s Niki Harris,which was just beautiful to watch and their duet ‘A Tough Act To Follow’ was a show highlight.
Fiona Buchanan ruled the stage with an iron fist in her turn as Carmen Bernstein, a brash, powerful, foul-mouthed stage mother and producer. Buchanan was outstanding in her role and poured energy out onto the stage. Her onstage daughter Bambi Bernet played by Lauren Conway was another showstopper. Her wilful, heartfelt performance and dance work in ‘Kansasland’ was outstanding.
The performance of the evening though has to go to Genevieve Tree as embattled lyricist and reluctant star Georgia Hendricks. Tree has powerful vocals, and while she played the formidable side of Georgia effortlessly, she also showed the carefully curated softness and love that the character has both for her ex husband (a heartfelt performance by William Boyd) but for her craft. Not an easy task. Her work in the Act One finale ‘Thataway’ was a showstopper.
An honourable mention should also go to Jarryd Pianca for his brief portrayal of lecherous producer Sidney Bernstein. It’s rare that a character walks onstage and everything about him can make the audiences skin crawl, but Pianca delivered the role wonderfully.
The lighting design was overall effective, and tied into the moments well, especially in Buchanan’s wonderful rendition of ‘It’s A Business’. Some lighting could have been tightened up towards the front of the stage, with some actors disappearing into the half dark, but this will no doubt be adjusted during the run.
Some balance problems with the sound design at the top of the show made the cast quite difficult to hear, and the orchestra extremely loud through the overture. Additionally a mic was left on backstage, and we could hear quite a lengthy conversation about what was happening onstage. Again, these things will be ironed out during the run and by the end of the show the balances had settled and things were running smoothly.
Curtains runs until the 24th March 2018, and is a thoroughly fun, funny, heartfelt show, with an extraordinarily talented cast. Do yourself a favour and head down to the Crete Street Theatre and see it. Tickets available at http://beenleightheatregroup.com.