Curtains Rose on Great Performances
on Great Performances
This first-time production at Sayville High School, CURTAINS, was not just “window dressing.” Rather, the musical presentation by Sayville High School’s music and drama departments was authentically entertaining with plot twists and turns that kept audiences guessing. At the same time it showcased the outstanding singing, acting, and dancing talents of an ensemble Sayville cast and delivered a feel-good ending every night. The only deception was how easy the cast, crew, and orchestra made it all appear
In this clever whodunit comedy, it’s curtains for one Jessica Cranshaw, a talentless diva (hilariously played for all its comic value in a short-lived role by Raven Dushnick) who is “killed” by the critics for her performance and actually murdered in the final curtain call on opening night at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. The mystery is not so much why did someone do it—as Jessica was not well liked or respected—but who? Under suspicion are the producers, financial backer, director, songwriter, lyricist, and understudy, along with the entire cast and crew of the much maligned Robbin’ Hood of the Old West.
Enter stage right: Boston homicide detective Lt. Frank Cioffi whose passion for the theatre is second only to his expertise in police investigations. Although everyone is suspect, one by one, Lt. Cioffi peels away the layers of mystery to eliminate the impossible and determine the truth. (As an accomplished actor and singer, multi-talented Sean McNally carried this central role with brilliant wit, style, and charm.)
Since Jessica Cranshaw is murdered by someone with easy access to the theatre company, Lt. Cioffi has to consider what motivates the usual suspects:
- Brassy co-producer CARMEN BERNSTEIN has too much at stake to allow a horrible lead to ruin the show’s chances; (As one of the dynamic leads in the ensemble, Emily Llewellyn was unsurpassed both as a comedic actress and singer. Her powerful voice consistently brought down the house especially in Show People and It’s a Business. )
- Chorus girl/understudy NIKI HARRIS too often is found in possession of incriminating evidence but is more guilty of becoming Lt. Cioffi’s love interest; (Disarmingly lovely in voice and character, soprano Kate Donohue maintained a delightful and balanced portrayal of the sweet rising star with the potential for murder.)
- Lyricist turned leading lady GEORGIA HENDRICKS’ hopes for reconciliation to her songwriter/partner/ex-husband Aaron Fox is complicated by a rival’s attentions; (Outstanding vocalist and seasoned performer Jillian Brudi sang, acted, and danced with incomparable grace and charisma.)
- Melancholy songwriter AARON FOX tries but cannot conceal his jealous sparks whenever Georgia’s ex-boyfriend Bobby Pepper fawns over his ex-wife whom he still secretly loves; (Always the consummate actor and overall performer, Jamie Baio never broke character or credibility–even while “fake-playing” I Miss the Music on a prop piano—but his excellence in both singing and dancing was undoubtedly the genuine article.)
- Egotistical show director CHRISTOPHER BELLING steals credit for everything and doesn’t refrain from verbalizing his reasons for hating Jessica Cranshaw; (Except in Alex Pittari’s well-timed comic performances, the flamboyant Belling was such a witty, blisteringly honest character that audiences hoped he hadn’t done it.)
- Bombastic co-producer and philandering husband to Carmen, SIDNEY BERNSTEIN has no loyalty to anyone or anything and is ready to shut down the flop and head back to his New York floozy; (Perfectly playing up the comedy aspects in the brief role, Jonathan Nolan made a big and unforgettable presence as the despicable bully Sidney.)
- Overlooked BAMBI BERNE struggles to make her own name in show business despite being the daughter of producer Carmen and step-daughter to Sidney; (Refreshing and wonderful in every aspect of her performances, Jillian Dymek acted, sang and danced her way into audiences hearts.)
- Professional dancer BOBBY PEPPER suspiciously turned down working with Balanchine to join the Robbin’ Hood company; (Remarkably persuasive as Aaron’s rival for Georgia’s heart, velvet voiced James Velazquez also favorably swayed audiences with his fine acting and dancing.)
- Financial backer OSCAR SHAPIRO may have felt he was throwing good money after bad by investing in the show; (A team Player, Otto Cooley had his own well-delivered comic moments although he more often played the perfect comic foil.)
- All-seeing, all-knowing Stage Manager JENNY HARMON has the inside scoop on the entire cast and crews; (The ever-versatile Rowen Mahoney ‘managed’ to pull off this tough-girl role with perfect ‘stage’ presence and style.)
- As lead Parson Tuck in the Robbin’ Hood production, RANDY DEXTER experienced the extreme mortification of working with the washed up Jessica Cranshaw; (In both the ensemble song-and-dance numbers, as well as in the role of Randy, Dylan Finder owned his characters whether pushing a broom, dancing with a chair or speaking lines.)
- The Boston Globe theatre critic DARYL GRADY threatens to destroy the theatre company’s chances for a Broadway run; (Also an accomplished singer and dancer who portrayed the mustached extra blending in the ensemble numbers, Sean Velazquez superbly delivered sizeable punch and subtle menace in his occasional non-singing role as the troublesome critic.)
While these suspects were specifically spotlighted for their possible motives, the array of ancillary characters: Mona Page (Jaclyn Parcelluzzi), Roberta Wooster (Eileen Monahan), Harv Fremont (Chris Pitre), Det. O’Farrell (Jessica Leigh-Manuell) along with the unnamed men and women singing and dancing in the ensembles, gave depth and breadth to the lively production.
Throughout Curtains, engaging musical numbers kept the pace—opening with Wide Open Spaces (performed by the entire company), followed by the comic What Kind of Man? (Carmen Oscar, Georgia, Aaron), the dirge-like The Woman’s Dead (the company), the energetic Show People (Carmen, Cioffi and company, the touching Coffee Shop Nights (Cioffi and Niki), the rousing Thataway (Georgia and Company), and the moving I Miss the Music (Aaron), later reprised as Aaron and Georgia’s duet Thinking of Missing the Music. Scene after scene set the stage for more mystery, music, mayhem, and romantic magic. While at the top of the show, the entire company had been In the Same Boat and under suspicion, thanks to the deductive reasoning and innate musical instincts of Lt. Cioffi , the problem elements in both the mystery and the musical are satisfactorily resolved —leaving audiences to agree this production of Curtains was indeed A Tough Act to Follow.
Enormous thanks go to all the powers that be (see the pdf of the program below) in the Production Staff who rang Curtains up and down for Sayville audiences: Directors Jeffrey Hoffman and Steve Hailey, Choreographer Denise Baio, Orchestra Conductor Ari Kramer and his wonderful orchestra, Accompanist Jeff Hoffman, Producer/Lighting Supervisor Steve Hailey, Scenery Supervisor Ken Van Essendelft, Sound Supervisor Andy Giammalvo, Make-up Supervisor Donna Hailey, Stage Managers (Paint Manager) Elizabeth Gouvis, Rebecca Mohrman, Assistant Stage Managers Mack Leddy, Karlee Ibanez, Construction Manager Andrew Cameron, Curtains Tech Dan Forsberg, Lighting Manager J.D. Verbeck, Costumier Jessica Leigh-Manuell, and Properties Master Taylor Grandfield.
Art Department students responded to an appeal requesting program and poster designs. After reviewing the many submissions, the production team picked student Calista Tomasetti’s design for the Cover Art and outdoor sign. However, Sayville audiences were treated to an exhibit of the other art submissions that were on display in the auditorium lobby during the intermissions.