nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
May 1, 2011
Veteran soap stars Kim Zimmer and Robert Newman (Guiding Light) team up to take the leads in Curtains, the final production of Paper Mill Playhouse’s 2010 – 2011 season. The result is a highly comical and entertaining evening of musical theatre.
The original production of Curtains ran on Broadway from March 2007 to June 2008. The show pays homage to the classic Broadway musical as well as Agatha Christie type murder mysteries. Curtains is set in 1959 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston during the out-of-town tryout for the fictional musical "Robbin’ Hood." The Kander and Ebb (the writing team behind Chicago and Cabaret) score does not disappoint, giving us the hilarious number “What Kind Of Man” right out of the gate. A witty jab at critics everywhere.
Newman plays Lt. Frank Cioffi a Boston police detective by profession, and a song and dance man in his spare time. Cioffi arrives backstage at the Broadway-bound musical "Robbin’ Hood" to investigate the murder of Jessica Cranshaw (a funny Happy McPartlin), the show’s talentless former film star who has been ruining the production. Everyone is a suspect and every suspect has a black secret. Newman makes an earnest and believable star-struck detective and he is equally adept in the song and dance department but sometimes misses the humor mark and loses more than a few comic opportunities.
Zimmer plays the no-nonsense producer Carmen Bernstein. Her show stopping number “It’s A Business” is a highlight of the production. Ed Dixon plays the larger-than-life director Christopher Belling to perfection. Anne Horak plays Carmen's daughter Bambi, a chorus girl who is a star-in-training. Her second act dance number is fantastic. Also outstanding are Kevin Kern and Helen Anker as "Robbin’ Hood"’s divorced writing team Aaron Fox and Georgia Hendricks. Kern’s heartfelt tune “I Miss the Music” is particularly well executed.
Amanda Rose plays Niki Harris, the show’s ingénue and Newman’s love interest, with endearing charm. David Elder plays "Robbin’ Hood"’s star Bobby Pepper who is also a rival for Georgia’s affections. Rye Mullis is amusing as put-upon stage manager Johnny Harmon and Dick Cecareau is wonderfully understated as money-man backer Oscar Shapiro.
This excellent cast is rounded out by Monique Alhaddad, Ashley Acrement, Colin Bradbury, Joshua James Campbell, Lauren DeCierdo, Mathew DeGuzman, Taurean Everett, Becca Kloha, Mary Ann Lamb, Ian Liberto, Patrick O’Neill, Molly Tynes, Kyle Vaughn, and Dana Winkle, who each excel in supporting roles in "Robbin’ Hood" as well as Curtains.
In addition to assembling this terrific cast director Mark S. Hoebee has brought together a top-notch staff of artists and designers. Period-perfect costumes by Tracy Christenson are a delight for the eyes. It is an incredible accomplishment to array this entire ensemble, each of whom have multiple requirements—including a new set of outfits just for the finale! The sets by Robert Kovach and lights by Charlie Morrison are fun and inventive. Choreography by JoAnne Hunter is precise, athletic, and entertaining, although I did find some of the show-within-the-show dancing just a touch too hokey and annoying.
Hoebee has directed the play with assurance and an eye for detail, creating a superlative finale for Paper Mill’s exceptional 2010-2011 season.