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Theater Review – 'Curtains'

Theater Review – ‘Curtains’

Produced by Theatre Three – Port Jefferson

Reviewed by Jeb Ladouceur


I fell for this wacky musical the minute I realized that the opening number ‘Wide Open Spaces’ was leading us into the mother of all theatrical farces. Indeed, after the ‘Curtains’ company had finished their corny, Oklahoma-like prancing around, it appeared that this reviewer would have to live up to the entertainment industry’s equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath, and pan the ‘yee-haw’ show.

My oh my … what an injustice that would have been! 

Because the routine that followed, ‘What Kind of Man?’ features key members of the creative team for a hokey play-within-a-play called ‘Robbin’ Hood.’ They’re reading mordant reviews in the Boston papers of the show’s opening night tryout and speculating bitterly in song about the kind of man who would want to write such scathing stuff. It’s possible that only a professional reviewer could recognize the full implication of the number.

Moments later, however, the production crew comes across an obscure critique that praises their show (if only obliquely) … and they do an about-face. Now theater commentators are extolled as among the wisest of literary pundits. Ah, me!

Like all farces, this complex combination of love, betrayal, ambition, and murder is almost impossible to review adequately. There are just too many facets to the plot that need explaining. The play must have been (pardon the pun) ‘murder’ to direct. That said, if anyone could accurately steer this ship called ‘Curtains,’ (the term for ‘a violent end’ popularized by gangsters in the 20s) it’s Jeffrey Sanzel. He is probably the finest director working in live theater today.

But it’s one thing for your resident critic to laud this rib-tickling musical … let’s see what the American Theatre Wing had to say when they issued their nominations for 2007’s coveted Tony Awards. ‘Curtains’ received a total of eight nods in the Musical category. Furthermore, those nominations spanned all the key groupings … Actor, Actress, Director, Choreographer, Score … and yes, Musical.

That year’s Drama Desk virtually mimicked the Theatre Wing’s recognitions. The organization honored ‘Curtains’ with nine nominations, adding Set and Costume design to the categories saluted by The Wing. Quite the collection of accolades one would have to say.

Though it’s billed as a ‘whodunit,’ this show is not without its placid moments. The best of them, in my view, is rendered when James Schultz (who plays lyricist Aaron Fox) sings the tender ballad, ‘I Miss the Music.’ The song holds particular significance for those of us who have missed the multi-talented Schultz. His return to Theatre Three after a several months-long hiatus from his home stage was acknowledged by an applauding crowd who stood and cheered during his curtain call.

I’ve always been a sort of patsy for good productions of ‘Oklahoma,’ ‘Carousel,’ and the like, but to be frank, they invariably smack somewhat of pizza without the hot pepper. One of the things that distinguishes Broadway musicals is the touch of naughtiness they can get away with. In the show running at Theatre Three thru June 23 you’ll find just enough impishness to tickle your funny bone without making you feel depraved.

This review would be incomplete without recognizing the contributions of Mary Ellen Kurtz as ‘Carmen Bernstein’ (move over Ethel Merman) … Steve McCoy controls the pace as ‘Lt. Frank Cioffi’ … Matt Senese is a spot-on ‘Chris Belling’ … Meg Bush plays a convincing ‘Jessica Cranshaw’ while doubling as Dance Captain. And yes … Jeffrey Sanzel directs.

In sum … ‘Curtains’ is the kind of multi-faceted production that almost magically, according to one Artistic Director, has the effect of an anti-depressant. So, if you’re feeling a bit low … or harassed … or if the weather’s got you down … or the kids have you climbing the walls … head on over to ‘Broadway on Main Street’ in Port Jeff. 

Theatre Three … ‘Curtains.’

No prescription necessary.



Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of a dozen novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His recent hit, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between the late Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s newly completed thriller, THE SOUTHWICK INCIDENT, was introduced at the Smithtown Library in May. The book involves a radicalized Yale student and his CIA pursuers. Mr. Ladouceur’s revealing website is www.JebsBooks.com

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