2017-02-03 / Schools
Cast capitalizes on show’s strengths
PLAY REVIEW /// ‘Curtains’
The Broadway version, a comical backstage murder mystery, was beset by the unexpected deaths of Stone and lyricist Fred Ebb before the show was even ready to go into production. With Rupert Holmes assuming Stone’s duties and helping to finish Ebb’s lyrics, the show managed to make it to Broadway, where it was nominated for eight Tony awards.
“Curtains” marked the end of the collaboration between Ebb and composer John Kander, which produced such hits as “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” The songs and elaborate dance numbers in “Curtains” helped save its uneven and sometimes plodding book.
Fortunately, Santa Susana capitalized on the show’s strengths with a cast of excellent singers and dancers. The show was the senior project for Antonia Vivino (choreography) and Maya Efrat (assistant director), with both doing admirably in their roles.
The plot deals with a snake-bit 1959 Boston production of “Robbin’ Hood,” a traditional musical Western shaken by the onstage death of its insufferable, under-talented diva, Jessica Cranshaw (Allie George). With the arrival of a detective, Lt. Frank Cioffi, no one in the cast or crew is beyond suspicion, and Cioffi spends the remainder of the show sorting through outlandish clues that would have made Sherlock Holmes scratch his head.
Cioffi was played by lanky Mason Purece, whose graceful dancing was notable. The detective’s love interest, winsome actress Niki Harris, was played by Jessica Dial. The two made a charming couple.
Janelle Miller played the troupe’s tough-as-nails co-producer Carmen Bernstein, exhibiting great comic timing and delivering on her solo showcase, “It’s a Business.” Her partner in the number was Carmen’s ambitious spitfire of a daughter, Elaine, who insists on being called Bambi.
Hannah Thacker gave a breakout performance as Bambi, a “Little Miss Dynamite” with facile dancing ability (including effortless splits and cartwheels) who can sing and do comedy as well as any high school student we’ve seen since . . . well . . . Antonia Vivino.
If her previous shows at Santa Su are any indication, Vivino, who played lyricist/actress Georgia Hendricks, has proven herself to be a surefire star in the making. With her strong singing voice, outstanding acting and prodigious dancing skills, she is a triple threat in any production.
But with this show, her first attempt at full-fledged choreography, Vivino shows impressive behind-the-scenes talent as well. The routines she designed for the “Kansasland” ensemble number and Purece and Dial’s “A Tough Act to Follow” are innovative and smoothly executed.
“Curtains” is a dance-intensive show, and Vivino’s ingenuity and ability to work with dancers on the high school level shows definite professional potential. It will be interesting to see how she fares after her graduation.
“Robbin’ Hood’s” flamboyant British director, Christopher Belling, is usually played by a man, but in a stroke of genius, Santa Susana’s production flipped “Christopher” to “Christina” and put the fabulous Amanda Marks in charge of filling her out. Marks did a terrific job in making her character’s wry asides work for a woman, hitting every line like a veteran cleanup hitter would smack a letter-high fastball.
Of the other cast members, Andrzej “Onj” Krassner-Cybulski stood out as Georgia’s ex-partner, composer Aaron Fox, who sings sweetly on his solo number, “I Miss the Music.” John Theisen led the all-student orchestra, with vocal director Bevin Abbe filling in on closing night.