Saturday, May 14, 2011

Curtains Review


Curtains (The Musical) presented by UMMTA

Union House Theatre

Curtains is a show that keeps you guessing. At times the audience is as unsure as the characters at what is going on. Concurrent with the opening/closing night of Robin Hood (set in Kansas – go figure) a murder occurs on the stage. As Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Josiah Lulham) enters to solve the murder, he also enters to solve the various problems facing the show. The producers Carmen and Sidney Burnstein despair but even without their leading lady their director Christopher Belling might just find a way. With the crew and cast all confined to the theatre there is little they can do because of course “the show must go on.”

This musical was well cast with a great and energetic chorus that reflects the depth of talent in the world of Musical Theatre. Everyone who sang produced a great voice and together the cast raised the roof of Union House Theatre. In a large cast it is always difficult to select out specific mentions but the characterisation of David Miles was once again superb; the fabulous dancing of Shannen Chin-Quan belied her young age; the heels of Anna Charalambous will go down in history; Josiah Lulham proved that he is at home in the lead’s role in any form of theatre and the rest of the principles was all excellent too. There are some great one-liners throughout the play and the character-roles are strong enough to hold their own against the nominal leads.

The production team at UMMTA is impressive. Bradley Dylan’s direction of this show was strong follow up to last years The Wedding Singer. This time he was ably assisted by Giancarlo Salamanca as assistant director and Lauri Uldrikis whose choreography showed both a talent and a tongue-in-cheek love of musical theatre dance. Anthony Cardamone and his orchestra were great too, it’s always nice to listen to it live rather than done with a computer. Incidentally it was lovely to see the orchestra for a moment after the interval – it might have been nice to see them a bit more, the liveness of the performance is always amplified when you can see where the music is coming from. It might have been fun too to incorporate them into production more.

Set-wise, Curtains is a difficult show to design as it is set in a theatre. For the most part the space was used very well and Caitlyn Staples’ scene set up in the flies was ingenious. The sets for the show-within-the-show Robin Hood were fun and appropriate however perhaps the Union House Theatre itself could have been more of a presence and the actual space more theatricalised for the scenes set just in the theatre. Considering however that along with Scott Marsh as Costume Designer this is a first time design both did very well.

And yet, all of this deconstructing of the different elements of the show does little to communicate how fun this production is. What was especially lovely to me was the progression of the song In the Same Boat. It gave the audience a sense of rehearsal within the show in such a neat way and it was a real pleasure to see a representation on the stage of how these things develop. It is also important to point out that despite being a little confused with the opening (yes, an honours thesis in metatheatre did little to help, honest!) and having to have it explain properly at interval this show was still engaging and my own logic created an alternative premise that fitted in anyway.

As a side note, according to the program Curtains was the last collaboration between John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret). It seems fitting under the circumstances that it contains a moving (and totally cutely performed) story-line involving the composers, with the song I Miss the Music especially resonant. UMMTA made a bold decision to stage the Melbourne Premier of Curtains and it paid off. Any other local company choosing to stage will indeed have “Tough Act to Follow.”

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