The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools.
As high school seniors graduate within the next months, they will receive their hard-earned diplomas with pride, relief, and uncertainty. Uncertainty looms because the future career they choose to pursue does not guarantee happiness, the key to a healthy and fulfilling life.
For Lt. Frank Cioffi, the struggle of finding happiness between his passion of performing and his job with the Boston Police Department defines the comedic, mysterious, yet heartwarming musical, “Curtains.” With a book by Rupert Holmes, “Curtains” follows a Broadway hopeful musical company for a chaotic 24 hours after its comically untalented starlet suddenly dies. Although the musical is relatively young, having made its New York premiere in 2008, Keystone Oaks High School easily tackled its numerous costume changes, sentimental duets, and unfamiliarity to audiences.
Lt. Cioffi, played by senior Darren Frederick, enters the scene shortly after Jessica Crenshaw dies on the opening night of “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West” and is later found out to have been poisoned. The cast becomes distraught over the mysterious death and a terrible review by the insidious Boston Globe reporter Daryl Grady, played by junior Dan Strickland. Because of Grady’s review, Sidney Bernstein, a manipulative producer, played by senior Klay Huebner, threatens to close the show to the disapproval of his wife and co-producer Carmen Bernstein, played by senior, Molly Young.
Throughout the show, Cioffi attempts to raise the cast’s spirits by telling them just how lucky they are to be “show people.” The stellar song with the same title is one of the most exciting numbers of the night, with a stellar band of professional and student musicians and an impressive display of spot-on vocals convincing the audience of the magic behind putting on a musical.
Although its program labels it a “who done it?” musical, “Curtains” does more by examining the highs and lows of three very different relationships. Ironically enough, the Bernsteins have been together the longest yet lack any remote attraction to each other as Carmen bitter-sweetly cracks jokes at Sidney’s affairs with younger actresses. If “Robbin’ Hood”’s harmonious duo of piano player and music writer Aaron Fox, played by senior Lucas Grasha, and his wife and accompanying lyricist Georgia Hendricks, played by senior Bailey Collins, represents the most realistic relationship, then Collins and Fox successfully portray the couple’s selflessness, sacrificing their personal careers to be with each other. Finally, “Curtains” asserts that “love at first sight” rings true with Lt. Cioffi and the flirtatious yet kindhearted Niki Harris, played by junior Alaina Turocy. The couple’s interactions on stage embody what it means to fall in love for the first time, especially in the show’s closer, “A Tough Act to Follow.”
Although only eight males were in the entire cast, these Keystone Oak men were crucial to the production’s success. Without a major solo, senior Stephen Yamalis nailed the part of the colorful “Robbin’ Hood” director, Christopher Belling, as his comical delivery kept the audience laughing and his portrayal of Belling felt real, as if Yamalis did not even act. Grasha excelled as the gentle pianist as he handled the challenging, “I Miss the Music” with relative ease. Frederick as Lt. Cioffi improved as the night went on and he successfully depicted Cioffi’s humble, passionate, and heart-warming personality.
As the show’s closer aptly states, Keystone Oaks would be “a tough act to follow” for any performer. In the end, Lt. Cioffi trades in his police badge for a spot under the spotlight, finally satisfying his need to sing and dance his way through life. For high school seniors, finding their dream job is easier said than done, but if all goes well, as the curtains close, at least some of the cast will surely look forward to singing and dancing their way through life.
Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. For more high school musicals coverage, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/ and scroll down.