The idea of a musical inside of a musical is a rather common plot. When it develops into a murder mystery it becomes something unique. When it is performed by a dynamic cast like that of the Central Catholic Masque, it becomes truly entertaining.
Set in 1950's Boston, "Curtains" is a parody of the detective fiction novels that were popular during the 20's through the 50's. The whodunit begins when the less than talented star of "Robbin' Hood of the Old West," Jessica Crenshaw (played by senior Amanda Gloninger) is murdered on opening night. Detective Lt. Frank Cioffi is then put on the case. In his pursuit to solve the murders he helps save the failing show, finds love, and grasps his fantasy of acting in a big production musical.
This production was very well put together. The entire cast was vocally strong, and the lead actors' interpretations of their roles were naturally funny. Contrastingly, despite efforts by senior Stephanie Pittman (Bambi) and junior Emmanuel Key (Bobby Pepper), the dancing was not as much of a "smash" as the vocal and acting work. They were able to display authentic emotions and reactions that were of an almost professional level. Male leads Cioffi, director Christopher Belling, and composer Aaron Fox were particularly impressive.
Cioffi, when assigned to investigate actress Crenshaw's murder, is awestruck by the company as he aspires to be part of the magic of show business. Senior Austin Adomitis conquered the three most challenging aspects of this role: the accent, the singing, and the romance. He effortlessly acted both the serious investigator and musical theater enthusiast. His "Coffee Shop Nights" was sung with an optimistic tone that worked well. Neither his light-hearted humor nor his romance with senior Audrey Griffith (ing??nue Niki Harris) was forced.
"A Tough Act to Follow" was one of the most hard to forget scenes from the performance because of the blend of musical talent and chemistry. With the addition of the entire ensemble, this song became one of the many nostalgic moments that reminded you of the enchantment of the performing arts.
The mystery of discovering which member of the cast is a murderer was treated with an immense amount of comedy. By far the most ludicrous character was English director Belling. There are traits of this melodramatic, stereotypical thespian that could be overdone. However, Nathanial Yost portrayed Belling in a way that was extremely funny but never too intense. Yost never failed to make the audience laugh, no matter how ruthless and blunt his lines were. He was acting without over-acting.
It's hard to find the right words to describe the performance of junior Michael Zak. His rendition of "I Miss the Music" gave me chills. It was the only moment in any high school musical that I have ever seen that has been able to bring me close to crying. His voice was filled with an exorbitant amount of despair but was also very powerful. Zak also displayed solid acting skills as Aaron Fox, the composer of the show-within-the-show. His and senior Mary Jeffries' (lyricist Georgia Hendricks) on stage relationship was quite convincing.
The female leads held their own as well. Jeffries' Hendricks was likeable, and "Thinking of Him" had an almost lullaby quality to it. Also, senior Katy Hayes (producer Carmen Bernstein) played the austere, business woman with confidence.
The show's costuming and simple yet effective scenery were on par with the time period. But most importantly the singing, especially that of Zak, Jeffries, and Adomitis, gave you the feeling that you were entering a black and white film. They "killed"!
"Curtains" ran April 18-21.
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. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson.