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Curtains: On Stage At Roger Rocka’s

IN THE August 3 ISSUE

FROM THE 2013 Articles,
andArts & Entertainment,
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by Terrance Mc Arthur

Imagine a big, goofy 1959 musical where the cast and crew are dropping like flies. That’s Curtains, the Good Company Players’ production now at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through September 8.

Whodunit? Was it… The brassy producer (Laurie Pessano)? The understudy (Dorie Sanders)? The ambitious chorus girl (Emily Pessano)? The show’s composer (Peter Allwine)? The British director (Steve Souza)? OR….?

Lt. Frank Cioffi (TYLER BRANCO) uncovers some new evidence about Jessica Crenshaw’s murder.

Curtains was originally created by Peter Stone (1776) with songs by Kander and Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago). After Stone’s death, Rupert Holmes (“Escape/The Pina Colada Song,” Drood) came in to re-write the script. When Fred Ebb died, Holmes worked with John Kander to write additional lyrics for Kander’s music.

When the no-talent leading lady (Paige Parker) is murdered during the Boston tryout of Robbin’ Hood, a musical re-setting the story of Robin Hood in Old-West Kansas, it’s the cue for Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Tyler Branco) to enter the scene. On Broadway, David Hyde-Pierce portrayed the theatre-loving police detective with an arch smugness. Branco comes in looking like a cross between Columbo and Inspector Gadget, bubbling over with a boyish enthusiasm and glee of a kid in a candy shop, a glee that extends to his feelings for one of the suspects (Sanders). He’s big, cheerful, light on his feet, and as Boston-sounding as you can bear.

The company expresses their sorrows over the loss of their leading lady as both a tribute and an acting exercise (LEX MARTIN, JULIE ANDREWS, EMILY PESSANO, LAURIE PESSANO).

As Carmen Bernstein, one of the show-within-a-show’s producers, Laurie Pessano gets to go all Ethel Merman on her songs, and it’s a lovely sight. “Show People” is a tribute to the “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show” and “No Business Like Show Business” anthems of the past, while “It’s a Business” pointedly deflates all that gee-whizness. In a big, sparkly, Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed outfit that echoes TV-era Judy Garland, she stretches out her arms and her talent to embrace the whole audience.

As the understudy who keeps getting her fingerprints all over the evidence, Sanders has a bubbly quality that could fill a whole Lawrence Welk Show stage. Her scenes with Branco are sweet, even when she looks like the prime suspect. Emily Pessano is extremely limber in her specialty number, where Bambi, the wannabe star, gets her chance to shine.

Julie Andrews (Yes, that’s her name) gets to tromp around as the seen-it-all stage manager who knows all the secrets, including some she shouldn’t know. Peter Allwine, one of GCP’s go-to guys, shines as the show composer, reunited with his ex-wife lyricist an uneasy collaboration. He’s kind, regretful, and gets to sing the tender “I Miss the Music” about his true feelings. Jessica Sarkisian, as the ex-wife dragged back onto the stage, gets to show off some impressive show-biz chops.

The reviews of ‘Robbin’ Hood’ are in and they are eagerly read by composer, Aaron Fox (PETER ALLWINE), lyricist, Georgia Hendricks (JESSICA SARKISIAN), producer, Carmen Bernstein (LAURIE PESSANO), and financial-backer Oscar Shapiro (LEX MARTIN).

Brian Rhea looms tall over the proceedings as the Boston Globe critic whose review savaged the show. Paige Parker is bad on purpose as the star who deserves to die. Steve Souza is unctuous, bombastic, and obtuse as the worst director this side of Roger DeBris from The Producers. Jacob Carrillo waxes athletic as the choreographer/male lead for Robbin’ Hood. Manuel “Lex” Martin looks confused as the investor surrounded by show people eager to cash his checks.

The company performs the finale of ‘Robbin’ Hood’

The songs evoke a pre-Kander/Ebb style, the script is sharp and witty, and Curtains is a great way to spend a few hours in Fresno…even if it does include a song about how low and rotten a person must be to want to be a reviewer….Indeed!

Curtains performs Thursdays through Sundays, with two shows most Sundays. Dinner & Show tickets are $45-$49, with Show-Only for $29 or $37 for Show Plus. Contact the box office at 266-9494 or 800-371-4747. For further information, go to the GCP website and the KRL Roger Rocka’s event page.

Check back every Wednesday evening for more theatre reviews!

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.

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